Anything from alternative country to South African bluegrass can be heard in the heart of Ann Arbor”s Main Street business district from the live music of The Ark, a non-profit educational arts organization. A varied form of acoustic music, comedy and storytelling make for the some 250 concerts hosted there throughout the year. The Ark attracts musicical artists from around the nation and features some of the best ethnic music from the British Isles, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean, thus allowing the audience to have the opportunity to leave with an appreciation for and awareness of other cultures and traditions.
David Siglin and his wife Laura helped start this music establishment in the early “60s with a small group of volunteers. They hoped to provide an environment for locals who wanted to try their talent in a small but intimate setting. Said Siglin, “I try to vary the style as much as possible by promoting music that one wouldn”t normally hear over the radio. We feature a wide variety of music, anything that might shock the typical college student, in attempts of attracting a bigger audience. We present bluegrass, R&B, new age, jazz, children”s, oldies, theatre, cabaret and just about everything else.”
Over the past 35 years, The Ark has been a starting point for many popular artists. The Dixie Chicks, for example, played there three times before they claimed a name for themselves. Former Michigan alumnus Gilda Radner, one of the original cast members of “Saturday Night Live,” started out at The Ark. Actor David Alan Grier, former member of “In Living Color,” performed at the Ark”s Open Stages on Wednesday nights when he was a student at the University. Said Siglin, “Grier got his first job playing for us on campus. He then left for Broadway and continued his career making comedic films. It”s amazing to see the young but mature talent that has come through these doors.”
Aside from the regular entertainment, anyone has the opportunity to perform during Open Stage nights.
“We don”t care if you are five-years-old or 95-years-old if they can perform, I”ll give them a spot,” said Siglin with a smile. “A nine-year-old once performed a clarinet solo and the audience loved it,” he added.
LSA freshman Rob Cantor tested some news songs that he had written on his guitar for the first time a few weeks ago. Said Cantor, “It was a great way for me to get a new reaction to my music and to perform in front of a different crowd.”
With such an eclectic range of music, the regulars for each set differ. Said Dan Patrevito, “I can”t just turn on the radio and hear music like this. I enjoy a lot of the jazz and bluegrass concerts that they run and am thrilled that The Ark provides such rare but quality music.”
When visiting The Ark, one must understand that none of TRL”s top ten songs of the week will be heard. Said Siglin: “I put people who are talented and deserve to be heard on my stage. Good is good, and good music will find an audience.” Starting small, The Ark has since earned an international reputation for itself due to the excellence and extent of its program.
For all advance ticketed shows, reserved seating is available and make up seven rows of the center section risers. The other 330 seats remain open seating. Reserved seats may be purchased only from Ticketmaster or the Michigan Union Ticket Office and are $5 more than the original ticket price. Tickets may run anywhere from $9 to $35, depending upon the concert, but seats fill up pretty rapidly and it is advised to call in advance.
For a list of upcoming shows, check the Michigan Union Ticket Office or the calendar posted in the Ark.