by Mathew Pugh
On Undiscovered, Local Musicians Step into the Limelight
By cable TV and LFFM, theyre touching fames outer circles
Somewhere in Bay Country is a musician brimming with talent but languishing in obscurity. Now, thanks to locals Chris Haley and Chris Sidur of Dee Entertainment, unknown players need dwell in darkness no longer.
The two have created Undiscovered, a one-part public access cable TV and one-part radio show showcasing musical talents of the unseen from Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Maryland and beyond. Undiscovered debuted early this year, bringing new hope to struggling musicians.
The vocalists breaking their butts trying to get into the door of a local club can now have a key; musicians the world was destined to ignore can change their destiny. You can come on these shows and be discovered, says Haley.
Haleys goal is to pull local musical talent from shadows, build Dee Entertainment and eventually produce biographies on African American singers like Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson. In that, hes carrying on the legacy of his uncle, Roots author Alex Haley.
Aside from his day job in the Maryland State Archives, Haleys chief passions are acting and writing, which hes pursued since high school. Recently, he appeared in a PBS documentary film, Partners of the Heart, narrated by Morgan Freeman, and had a part in HBOs The Wire.
He enjoyed the work, but he got sick of waiting on a production or directing job. Thus, Haley created Undiscovered.
|Partners Chris Sidur and Chris Haley.
Undiscovered welcomes players from all musical genres hip-hop to punk, opera to country, R&B to Broadway. Haley and Sidur hold auditions and sometimes scoutfor undiscovered talent. Not just any act will make the cut.
We want to put on the best in the area to give them that extra boost they need to go to the next level, said Sidur.
Sidur, a California native, has family in the film biz, including a sibling screen writer, encouraging him to pursue his interests in entertainment.
He chases those interests at Anne Arundel Community College, studying business and film and honing his craft for script writing. An avid music fan who keeps his finger on the local music pulse, Sidur makes sure that the chosen talent fits within Undiscovereds format.
The format is simple, so it is shot live to tape. The credits roll as an introduction from Haley segues into a live performance. After the first number, Haley asks the band to tell the viewers about themselves. Then, its music through to the end.
Tech support is in short supply, making the TV version of Undiscovered a totally grassroots operation. A six-person crew including Haleys cousin, who does makeup, and his 14-year-old godson, who does sound shoots the show every Friday night in the Comcast Cable office on Bay Ridge Road in Annapolis.
Inexperienced crews scramble last-minute to move lights, wires and cameras as they nitpick over shot space and angles. This is reality TV, says Haley of the madness.
Featured on the fifth episode is the Raw Hands Band from Annapolis. Its a wonder that this quartet, with their tight, funk-bluesy sound, is unheard of. In their moment in the media, the band hams it up for the cameras.
This is a great opportunity for more people to see us, says Raw Hands guitarist George Chicky Johnson. It brings our music into their living rooms.
The show also gives musicians experience in an otherwise rare medium. The television format gives acts a new way to market themselves in addition to the traditional hitting-the-streets approach of begging bar and club owners for gigs.
Undiscovered TV is a labor of love for Haley and Sidur. It earns them zero dollars, while advertising, makeup, equipment and stress-alleviating alcohol costs accrue.
The show airs throughout Southern Anne Arundel County south of Route 50 and Annapolis on Wednesday nights from 8-8:30pm on Comcast channel 76, and is bicycled with no guarantee of being played to Baltimore City and County. Plans are in the works to expand the show and broadcast it to the rest of Maryland and beyond.
Undiscovered TVs radio sister, also called Undiscovered, airs Sunday through Friday at 3-3:30pm on Radio Clay Street, 1600 on the Annapolis AM dial. Radio Clay Street has a low powered, 10-foot antenna on the roof of the Stanton Center on West Washington Street thats capable of reaching the ears of Annapolitans within a quarter-mile radius.
|Undiscovered was a great opportunity for Annapolis The Raw Hands Band.
Clay Street Public Safety Team Leader Dennis Conti runs Radio Clay Street. He originally tried for a federal license for a low-frequency FM station, but missed the Federal Communications Commission window for licensing. The AM station route proved more advantageous, he says, because of fewer programming regulations.
From a small, make-shift studio on the Centers second floor, Haley and Sidur spit out commentary, highlight community announcements, promote Undiscovered TV and, of course, play music.
The concept is the same: giving unnoticed acts another way to recognition. Though the two shows are related, what happens on one doesnt necessarily happen on the other. But most acts are featured on both.
The music aired on Undiscovered radio is either a rebroadcast recording of the prior weeks TV show, current recorded cuts from the artist or a live, in-studio performance. Whatever format theyre in, Radio Clay Street plays the nobodies that other stations wont.
As far as Haley and Sidur are concerned, the nobodies are somebodies, and listeners are the music experts. Haley and Sidur believe that theyre giving the audience the power to choose whos who.
If audiences like what they hear and see then they will pursue the bands, said Sidur.
Other show plans are in the works, too, such as hosting a concert featuring all of the performers whove appeared on the shows. Also, theres the possibility of acquiring a higher wattage antenna for the station. Should that come to fruition, Undiscovered may itself be discovered.
The dream for Dee Entertainment is for Undiscovered to explode into bigger projects. I want the viewers and listeners to go to bigger production companies, CBS, NBC, anywhere and say that these shows need to be produced nationwide, said Haley.
But whats more important at this point in Haley and Sidurs game is gaining experience and knowledge. Undiscovered is run without a budget, on minimal time and with bare-bones equipment.
This is a learning experience for all of us, explains Haley. When things begin to grow, well already know what to expect and have two seasoned shows on our roster.
Undiscovered hosts two to three auditions a month at the Stanton Center. The next is May 9. For a spot, call Dee Entertainment: 410-499-2774 or 240-602-4113 [email protected].