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The Ark Bids Farewell To Longtime Chief

Of the Oakland Press

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When the Ark’s board of directors signed Dave Siglin to manage the fledgling folk club in January of 1969, he said “I’ll do the job for five years — tops.”

Five has turned into nearly 40, and along the way Siglin, whose title soon became program director, shepherded the Ark from its modest beginnings in the First Presbyterian Church on Hill Street through two other locations and into one of the most celebrated club venues on the national music circuit. His reign will be celebrated over the next four days with Dave's Farewell Fling, a series of multi-artist concerts reflecting Siglin's personal tastes.

“The Ark is a community treasure,” says Indiana-based artist Carrie Newcomer, a frequent Ark visitor who plays there on Wednesday. “There’s nothing like the Ark — there really isn’t — and I think Dave really has been one of the elements that made it the musical space that it is. He’s really done amazing things there.”

Under Siglin’s tenure, the Ark became one of the country’s preeminent stops for folk musicians and singer-songwriters, as well as world music acts that had no other set place to play in southeastern Michigan. In recent years the Ark has also turned back to rock — during the late ‘60s Iggy Pop’s early band the Prime Movers played there — with shows by Little Feat, the Gin Blossoms and Todd Rundgren, among others.

Thirty years ago, meanwhile, Siglin put together the annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival, which became the single largest fundraiser for the nonprofit facility and has grown into a two-night extravaganza each January at U-M’s Hill Auditorium; Siglin and his wife, Linda — an unofficial “partner in crime” in running the Ark — were honored at this year’s show.

Their daughter, Anya, will succeed her father as the Ark’s new program director March 10.

Besides the national acts, Siglin also opened the Ark’s stage to local and regional artists, often via open mic nights that frequently graduated to full-blown headlining shows of their own. Detroit singersongwriter Jill Jack recalls that “I used to be afraid of him. He never really let you know what he was thinking” but eventually came to know Siglin as “a great guy with a super-warm heart.”

“He’s one of the rare people you meet in the business that is truly about the music and nothing about himself,” Jack notes. “He’s selfless when it comes to dealing with the music and just want to get it out there.”

Dave’s Farewell Fling reflects that sensibility this week. The four-night affair, which runs Thursday through Sunday, features multi-artist bills that include Arlo Guthrie, Chris Smither, John Gorka, David Bromberg, Anne Hills and others. “Dave booked the shows,” according to Ark spokeswoman Barb Chaffer Authier. “It’s all people he has a history and connection with and wanted to see.”

Siglin will be well-rested, too; he and his family spent last week in Cancun, presumably resting up for the big Fling rather than sitting around the office talking about his impending departure.

“Dave does what he wants,” Authier says with a laugh.

And for one final weekend, Siglin will be doing just that.

Dave’s Farewell Fling” takes place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday (March 6-9)at the Ark, All shows are $35. A free open house will be held for Dave and Linda Siglin at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Ark. 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Thursday’s show features Chris Smither, Cheryl Wheeler, John Gorka and Susan Werner. Friday and Saturday’s show includes Arlo Guthrie, Anne Hills, Barry O’Neill, David Jones, John Roberts & Tony Barrand and Michael Cooney, with David Bromberg playing on Sunday. Call (734) 761-1451 or visit www.theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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