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Straight from The Source, a regular interview series taking you behind-the-scenes to Southeast Michigan’s cultural destinations to hear from the curators, programmers, leaders, doers and makers.    

What are you best known for? 

For The Ark, bringing great music to the area. There's a little bit of something for everyone. 

What would you like to be known for? 

I’d like to be known nationally and locally for the quality of the artists that we bring to the community, and for introducing new and emerging artists to the area and not just doing the same thing every day. We bring live music seven nights a week. 

What makes a great performance at The Ark?

When the artist that’s there understands the room, such as the intimacy of the seated listening room, and the feeling of the people being at home. [The Ark seats 400 people, and no seat is more than 50 feet from the stage]. The performance at that point becomes a real give and take between the audience and the performer. It’s not a bar, you’re up close.

How has The Ark changed during your tenure? 

Since I’ve taken over, there’s been more focus on emerging performers, but balancing it with the legends. I will say, I like to push the envelope in terms of how folk is defined. Things have to change, times change, and you have to go with the times and what’s out there. The music is changing, too. You have to bring in your younger audiences, but you have to cater to all of your audiences.

What do you look for in planning a season, especially with as many shows as The Ark presents?

It’s a year-round scheduling process. I do book very far out like other arts organizations, but with 320 shows a year, I’m continuously booking. We have a calendar that comes out every two months, not just a season brochure. There’s no down time.

I’m always looking for a balance of local and up-and-coming national artists, established artists and legends. I book a wide range of musical genres, but they have to fall under our broad umbrella of folk, roots and acoustic music. We want to make sure we present everything all year long.

I hope that there’s always something for everyone. With my job, I have to make sure I don’t book all blues one week—I have to make sure I mix it up enough so that if you do want to come three nights in a row, you can, and you’ll hear different music each night. It’s a puzzle. You do have to make sure it is a balance. Portrait of Anya Siglin by Courtney GeistPortrait of Anya Siglin by Courtney Geist

Who has been your favorite performance? Or what is the performance you are most proud to have presented at The Ark?

There are certain shows that you book them [the artists] every couple years, but you forget what they’re like live—someone like a Taj Mahal. You just get mesmerized and stay for the show. I can’t say that there’s one performer that I can’t miss, but there’s the ones that maybe you don’t listen to all the time, but then when you’re there, you can’t leave. Live performance is so different than listening on the radio.

"Live performance is so different than listening on the radio."

I’m most proud of presenting the bigger artists that want to play and support intimate, smaller and nonprofit clubs rather than always playing the bigger venues. It’s nice to be able to get the bigger artists that know what you’re doing, and they support it. That to me is really very cool. 

What does a vibrant arts and cultural community mean to you? 

It really means there are opportunities in the area for everyone. Being a destination town for travelers, and not lacking access to anything in Ann Arbor—there’s so many different things you can do here. 

What, to you, does The Ark represent to the Ann Arbor music community? 

I think it represents the support that our region gives to local artists. It’s a venue that a lot of local performers aspire to play. We do dedicate a generous portion of our performances to local artists—last year, it was was close to 20 percent.  

What local cultural destination have you visited recently? 

I just attended a concert at the Power Center, I’ve been going to Top of the Park a lot, Sonic Lunch—we support the other arts organizations out there. Recently, for the first time, I visited the Motown Museum in Detroit. It was amazing—you don’t realize it’s right there in your backyard. 

Who, to you, epitomizes arts and culture in Michigan? 

I think UMS plays a huge role in the culture in Ann Arbor and in Michigan. Ken Fischer has done the job really well, and they do a lot for the community. 

When you have visitors in from out of town, what is the one cultural destination you make sure they see during their visit? 

I include food into the cultural experience, so I have to say Zingerman’s Deli. I also like to have people walk along State and Main Street [in downtown Ann Arbor] and see the Diag. It played a huge role years ago with protests, and it’s a cool area of Ann Arbor.

What upcoming performances at The Ark are you most looking forward to?

I’m really looking forward to The Tallest Man on Earth (July 13th), Davina and the Vagabonds (August 17th), The Second City comes through in September each year and I won’t miss it (September 16-17), Darlingside will be coming back, Steve Poltz, Patty Griffin, Willie Nile, and I’m really excited, we’re working with the Art Fair again—we’re doing an Art Fair Stage (July 21-23). We’ve booked an open stage on the Thursday, and then the Friday and Saturday, we’re booking from 4:30pm to 9pm, PigPen Theatre Co. on Friday, The Stooges Brass Band on Saturday, plus local bands. 

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