Local musicians get their time under the lights

Date Published: 
Aug. 4, 2017

Coastal Point • Tyler Valliant: Mama’s Black Sheep jams out on stage during the first Locals event at the Freeman Stage at Bayside.Coastal Point • Tyler Valliant: Mama’s Black Sheep jams out on stage during the first Locals event at the Freeman Stage at Bayside.For the fifth season, the Freeman Stage at Bayside in Selbyville is hosting its Locals under the Lights performances, so that local up-and-coming artists have the opportunity to further their musical interests while audience members are able to appreciate the local talent.

This summer’s second Locals under the Lights will take place Thursday, Aug. 10.

“We want to help not only expose a variety of art media to people, but we want to be able to let people express their love for music and performing as well,” said Alyson Cunningham, communications and public relations manager for the Freeman Stage.

From 7 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 10, people of all ages are being invited to listen to vocal and instrumental performances from 5th Avenue, Cologne, Hedera SOJO, Bad Avenue Band and Jacob Osias, while sitting on the lawn in front of the stage.

With a variety of genres — classic rock, blues, country, jazz, pop-rock and rock — to offer the audience, the local musicians will each have about 15 to 20 minutes of stage time to perform their mix of original songs and covers.

Starting at 5:45 p.m., the gates of the venue will open, and since seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, Patron Services Specialist Ashley Quasney said she encourages event attendees to assemble their own chairs and blankets in their preferred locations on the grass.

Because the event is free of cost, registering for tickets is not required. However, when individuals claim their tickets on freemanstage.org or eventbrite.com and bring them to the show, they will be entered into a drawing to win two free tickets to future performances at the venue.

For a separate cost, the café will be serving food, beer, wine and soda to accompany the live music, so Freeman Stage employees have advised audience members not to bring their own alcoholic beverages or food.

In order for this event to run smoothly and successfully, Quasney has been working with two other employees to plan and organize the event. In April, the team reviewed applications of potential performers, selected musicians for the event and communicated with the artists to assist their preparation.

As part of the application process, musicians, dancers, singers and instrumentalists from the Delmarva area interested in performing at Locals under the Lights were asked to fill out applications on the event’s webpage. They provided their names, genre of music they play, types of music that influence them and links to examples of their own musical works.

While reviewing submissions of the applicants, Quasney said, she wanted to select a group of performers who would offer memorable performances with a multiplicity of talent.

“We want to make sure we get a wide range of performances for each showing, so that we get to show off the many different talents Delmarva has to offer,” Quasney said.

After meeting as a team to select the applicants, the organizers of the event said they were pleased with the lineup of five local artists and that they believe the audience will enjoy the performances.

“This group that we chose has a nice mix of different genres and different groups,” Quasney said. “We have a good range of artists and ages.”

Since the artists are of all ages and have different levels of experience performing, Freeman Stage employees said watching youth participants spark and further their passion for the arts while interacting with the audience is a unique aspect of Locals under the Lights.

“I enjoy watching the kids come into their own on the stage, with the light shining on them, and seeing how excited they are to be in front of a crowd,” Cunningham said.

Freeman Stage employees said they hope Locals under the Lights will be an experience that inspires these young artists to continue their love for music and that introduces them to the process of performing at professional music venues with crowds as large as 750 people.

“It’s a nice opportunity for them to see what it’s like if they were to pursue a musical career as an adult,” Quasney said.

Because many national recording artists have performed on the Freeman Stage in the past, sharing a stage that has showcased well-known musicians is an accomplishment and honor for the local performers, according to the event organizers and employees.

“We really do enjoy bringing the kids on here, because it’s a really fun chance for them to feel like rockstars on a big stage,” Quasney said.

The enjoyment of basking in the limelight on the same stage as famous musicians is not only limited to the younger performers. Craig Coffield, the lead singer and guitarist of Bad Avenue Band, said performing at Locals under the Lights for the first time will supplement his list of prior concerts, because his musical inspirations have also performed on the Freeman Stage.

“I’m most excited to play on the stage that has had so many national acts on it, including Gary Clark Jr. — one of my favorites,” Coffield said.

Ever since four men met at Fairway Jam Thursday nights at Jonathan’s Landing in 2015, Bad Avenue Band has spent weekends across Delaware and Maryland playing classic rock, blues and country. The band members said they are ecstatic to perform at Locals under the Lights, to share their love of performing with the audience and to further their musical experiences.

In addition to the benefits for the performers, Locals under the Lights was also created five years ago for community members to appreciate the local talent surrounding them and to honor and learn more about the arts.

“Local residents and visitors, when they are here, are able to experience a show right in their back yard without having to travel, and I think that is really what our community has embraced and enjoyed,” Cunningham said.

Lisa Condon of Frankford, who attended this summer’s first Locals under the Lights, said she has decided to attend the events for her second year in a row to increase her knowledge about and exposure to the arts, while also supporting a community of artists.

“I think arts in our community is incredibly important,” Condon said. “Even more so, I think it is crucial for artists to see they are supported in their efforts. The Freeman Stage provides this opportunity, and it is our privilege and responsibility to attend.”

Condon and othor audience members recognize the significance of artistic expression within their community, which is at the heart of why the Freeman Stage was built in the summer of 2008.

As an open-air performing arts venue that offers performances in dance, live music, theater and children’s programs from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the venue was created as a part of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation. Founder and President Michelle Freeman decided to facilitate the building of the stage to honor her late husband’s dedication to the arts and extend his love for musical expression to the entire community.

“She always said she thought as though Sussex County and Southern Delaware felt like an art desert at the time, so she wanted to create a place where people could come and experience art performances,” Cunningham said.

As for the upcoming Locals under the Lights performance, the event organizers, audience members and musicians have all expressed their enthusiasm for a night of artistic expression, education and enjoyment.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all the great local music that Delmarva has to offer and to see some of these new artists that have not yet had the chance to grace our stage and to give them their chance to show this town what they’ve got,” Quasney said.