Annual 'Sumac' show at The Ark offers songwriting 'professor' Dick Siegel a chance to sing out
In 2010 Siegel was appointed DeRoy Visiting Professor in Honors at the University of Michigan, where he designed and continues to teach a songwriting course titled “Singing Out of Our Minds.” He also created and directs a two-week intensive songwriting program at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in northern Michigan that’s proved so popular there are plans to double the offerings.
Siegel will play his annual fall show, “When the Sumac is on Fire,” at The Ark on Saturday, accompanied by his band The Brandos (guitarist Brian Delaney and upright bassist David Roof). Gayelynn Mackinney, from the band Straight Ahead, will join them on drums.
“I had an idea a few years ago that it would be cool to teach. And since I had a connection with U-M, because I went to the U-M and was in the honors program and had fond memories a little light went off in my mind,” said Siegel. “To realize that I was being looked at as a valued professional in a whole different light—that was very interesting.”
Siegel, responsible for such classics as "Angelo's (Eggs Over Easy),” “Can I Sing?” and “What Would Brando Do?” has inspired plenty of songwriters in Michigan and beyond.With music ranging from jump blues and Buddy Holly-style pop to pure folk balladry, Siegel was named in WDET's list of the most important and influential artists in the history of Detroit. He has also been featured on NPR’s “Mountain Stage,” “All Things Considered,” and in Sing Out! magazine. Long-time Ann Arborites may recall gigs by Dick Siegel & His Ministers of Melody at the late, lamented Joe’s Star Lounge.
“This is something I could feel was an opportunity for me to do something different,” Siegel said of his latest career. “I’ve always enjoyed teaching. And I’ve also thought a lot about creativity - both sisters of mine are artists - so something was going on in my family that enabled us to take that route. I’ve always though creativity is not something just a few people are born with. It’s something everybody is born with. It’s what allows us to survive, this creative thinking.”
Siegel said he believes people are just waiting to have their inner creativity unlocked.
“Most people don’t even realize they might have this and few people actually nurture this,” he said. “It’s something that if I create the right environment, with the right approach, I can nurture this thing and people can discover it in themselves. It can be extremely fulfilling to see this thing happen with somebody.
“Language and music comes so naturally to humans, and the combination of these things is so powerful it gives information in a way that neither music nor language by themselves can do,” added Siegel.
For the Ark show, Siegel's 14-year-old daughter Arden will also perform some tunes with the band. He will also have some new songs at the ready.
Siegel and the band released a live CD last fall, and said they plan to go back into the studio soon. “There’s a lot of new material that we currently perform and there are a lot of songs that are so new we haven’t performed them yet,” he said.
“There’s going be some surprises in terms of opening,” he said of the show. “I would say at this point I am excited about it, but I am not sure what it will be.”