By day, Community Action Council financial fitness coordinator Derek Feldman counsels low-income, working class families; Mark Rush, a high school science teacher, coaches his students through the often confounding world of physics. And as producers of the online music video series Shaker Steps – which will soon become a television series on the local network KET – the duo dedicates much of their free time to helping uplift another sector of the population that often struggles to make ends meet: independent musicians.
“In the age of digital downloads, people don’t actually think about paying artists, or the money that it takes to support an artist,” explained Feldman. A songwriter who performs under the moniker Doc Feldman, Feldman has an intimate knowledge of the challenges often faced by working musicians, from building a following to paying the bills. It was with these factors in mind that he approached his friend Mark Rush, a fellow musician and hobby photographer, with the idea of creating a series of unique music videos that could serve to both bolster the regional music scene and help promote individual artists and bands. Rush received the idea warmly, and last fall the duo began filming and publishing videos under the umbrella of Shaker Steps, named in honor of a series of Shaker “spirit” drawings discovered on the steps of Rush’s historic Garrard County house.
“The beginning thought was just to interact with artists and do these intimate sessions that show the artists’ humanity – this sort of behind-the-scenes footage,” said Feldman, who said he was inspired by a similar video project based in his hometown, St. Louis, called “Show Me Shows.”
Shaker Steps videos, which typically range from three to six minutes in length, each feature a song performed by the artist in an unusual setting – be it a local boutique, a historic site, a park or an abandoned building. The videos often feature additional footage of the artist interacting with the filmmakers as well, highlighting raw and personal qualities that fans might not typically have the chance to witness in a typical concert setting.
The primary goal of the videos, which the duo began filming and publishing in the fall of 2012, was to give artists a tool they can use to promote their music, while at the same time encouraging fans to “spend money, to buy the album, to see them live, to buy a t-shirt – to go support the artist that you love,” Feldman said.
During the early process of creating the videos, however, Feldman and Rush soon noticed another important layer to the project: its ability to showcase venues and locations that are unique to Lexington and the surrounding area.