It is often said that music is the best medicine, so when the 8th Annual Saginaw On Stage music festival takes place on Saturday, April 23rd, audiences will have an opportunity to see a group of Doctors and medical professionals put that adage into practice when the Covenant Which Doctors take to the stage at Apple Mountain Resort & Conference Center for this annual showcase of local music that will feature over 28 bands & artists performing on five stages, giving music lovers of the Tri-Cities an opportunity to sample a broad smorgasbord of musical entertainment and tastes ranging from Folk, Blues, Country, Pop, Rock and Jazz to Celtic and Gospel.
A major fundraising event for the Saginaw Rotary Club, according to event coordinator Bill Koepke, since its inception this annual event has raised over $120,000 for local charities and organizations.
“Once again this year we’ll be partnering with Covenant on their ‘Sleepsack Project’ for kids, which provides every newborn with a sleepsac that reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Additionally, we can obtain matching funds from the district & national Rotary levels, so this is definitely a major annual event for us,” he notes.
While the programming of Saginaw On Stage strives to evolve every year, Bill notes that “We try to bring at least half of the artists that we feature back each year, and then mix the other half up with new artists, the main idea being to expose people that might not catch this talent at local taverns or bars.”
For 2011 one of the more intriguing musical alliances certain to draw attention will be the aforementioned Covenant Which Doctors Consortium, a musical convergence of medical talent that lay down their tongue compressors and scalpels and pick up electric guitars and saxophones instead to write their own distinct musical prescription for personal well-being.
“We formed about two years ago,” says spokesman Larry Daly, one of four members of the group who are not doctors, but who work for the 4000-employee Covenant HealthCare system. “We showcase a lot of talent not usually displayed in the operation room,” he quips. “Collectively there are 12 to 14 of us.”
According to Daly, the reason they call themselves ‘Which’ Doctors instead of ‘Witch’ Doctors is because they’re never sure who will perform during a planned concert due to – you guessed it – the ever constant call of a potential medical emergency. The Consortium will perform a mix of folk, blues and rock.
Daly, who is Director of Planning & Business Development at Covenant, says the Which Doctors formed on a whim to participate in a Covenant employee talent show and then got hooked on the idea of continuing the concert gigs.
“It helps having such a large pool of talent to draw upon,” he continues, “because it gives us the latitude to split into a variety of acts. It would be a sound nightmare to have nine guitarists up there playing all at once, so we have a couple of solo and duo acts that are acoustic/folk, a bluesy band, and a rock band, all of which will perform at Saginaw On Stage.”
Daly lays out how the Consortium operates on stage.
“A few of us, Dr. Brian Schroeder (Head of the Covenant Hospital Medicine Program (guitar & vocals), Dr. Peter Fattal (MCVI cardiologist - guitar & vocals), Dr. Erica Canales (Valley OB/GYN - guitar & vocals) and Carol Levack (Erica's Mom - guitar & vocals) are more acoustic oriented. So it works out well for them to do a couple of more mellow numbers to get things rolling.”
“Then we work some of our acoustic players into our more blues oriented electric band. I am part of that group along with Dr. Guy Boike (Gynecological advanced robotic surgeon and guitar), Kris Ciesliga (CRNA & Guy's better half - keys & harmonica), Brent Racca (surgical tech - drums), and Al VanArsdal (Covenant HR Director - bass, guitar & vocals).”
“Brent and Al team up with Dr. Tom Minnec (Women’s OB/GYN - guitar), Dr. James Bersalona (Urgent Care Physician - guitar & back up vocals) and Terry Mohn (husband to Covenant surgical nurse) to form the more rock side of the Covenant Which Doctors Musical Consortium. We also bring in Chris Jarema (surgical tech - bass & drums) and Dr. Tim Eckstein (Medical Director of the Covenant Occupational Medicine program - sax) from time to time.”
For Saginaw On Stage, Daly says they group will start with the folk and solo acts, then do the blues group and work up to the rock band, noting the rock ranges from Frank Zappa to the Black Crowes. They’ll play a 90-minute set starting at 6:30 PM in the BIerlein Room.
Getting the consortium together to rehearse is nearly impossible, Daly admits, “so there is a lot of homework, learning the lyrics and the music.”
Other than hospital related events, thus far the Which Doctors have performed in the Blue Line Club before Saginaw Spirit hockey games.
“When we first got started as the Covenant Which Doctors we could actually take the stage together. However, now that we’ve grown to upwards of 13 members and nine guitars, we needed to evolve into the musical consortium and away from the single band approach.”
So how often do the Which Doctors rehearse and how regularly are they able to perform, given their busy schedules?
“As often as we can on both counts,” replies Daly. “It is not easy with everyone’s work and on-call schedules, but there is a real dedication here. And that’s the good thing about having many performers. We can mix and match.”
Have they worked on developing any original material, or is the Consortium primary a covers-oriented focus?
“A number of our musicians are songwriters, too,” notes Daly. “Erica and Brent both have CDs worth of original music. However, given the amount of time we have together and the audiences we have been playing to, we have really concentrated on cover tunes that we are fond of that we think our audiences share a love for along with us. That’s not to say there won’t be Covenant Which Doctor original music in the future. It’s a pretty creative collection of musicians.”
When asked what the most challenging component has been bringing a conceptual band like this to fruition, Daly notes, “Time. Certainly not dedication or creativity.”
Of the various members, are there any that stand out in terms of musical ability, experience, and acumen in terms of forging the musical direction of the group?
“Just as we have a diverse array of high level medical talent, we have a diverse group of seasoned musicians. Most members have been active players in earlier days, and it is like riding a bike – especially when music is such a big part of your life. What is really refreshing is to see so many musical backgrounds come together. In addition to musical harmony there is a strong personal bond that has developed between members. The musical respect and admiration shared among us helps us take the music to new levels. It will be exciting to see where this all leads. For me, I am honored to be along for the ride.”
Saginaw Teens On Stage
Another highlight at this year’s Saginaw On Stage will be the debut performance of Saginaw Teens On Stage, who will perform in The Covenant Room from 6:30-7:30 PM. Saginaw Teens On Stage features some of the senior Voice/Keyboard students from the Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy (SASA) along with one Delta College student and a freshman from Heritage High School. Directed by Michael Brush, the inclusion of this event was suggested by Deanna Hurtig, the mother of one of Brush’s past students at S.A.S.A, Kate Hurtig, who is now at Heritage.
“Kate was often a soloist in the SASA concerts, choosing good songs and delivering them very well,” states Brush. “She is the only student on the program, as far as a I know, who is not a senior at SASA, except for Mariama Sharper, the daughter of Howard Sharper, who attends Delta College.”
Their set will include solos and small group songs and performers will include: Florence Alexander, Shamiah Bell, Breanne Badger, David Brown, Kate Hurtig, Emerald Joiner and Mariama Sharper.
“My hope is that this can become a performance that continues to be driven by the senior class, insuring a display of new talent each year,” continues Brush. “This is a very talented group and many have been featured in SASA concerts. Emerald Joiner and David Brown will be music majors next year, and both have always volunteered to perform whenever opportunities have arisen. They also do many nice duets and Emerald is also a basketball standout and was the ‘go to’ person in helping organize the participants for this segment.”
What follows is a schedule of performances for the 8th Annual Saginaw On Stage:
Merrill Lynch Atrium
4:30-6:30, Bob Barcalow & Eva Stone (Strings & Things)
4:30, Argontos (world music)
5:30 Equinox (Celtic)
6:30 Saginaw Teens on Stage
7:30 New Reformation Band (jazz, Dixieland)
8:30 Brush Street featuring Julie Mulady (jazz, blues)
9:30 Laurie Middlebrook Band (country)
4:30 Jazz 101 (jazz and fusion)
5:30 Fabulous Retreads (rockabilly, early R&B)
6:30 Muzyka! (folk, gospel, bluegrass)
7:30 Red Hawkins Band (Americana)
8:30 Siusan O’Rourke and Zig Zeitler (Irish, Americana)9:30 Eastside Mike and Friends (Americana, folk, blues, country)
4:30 Cornpone (hillbilly swing)
5:30 Dick Case & Friends (jazz)
6:30 Covenant Which Doctors (rock, blues)
8:00 Doodads (bluegrass)
9:00 Tosspints (punk/rock-influenced Celtic)
10:00 Robert Lee Revue (smooth jazz)
White Crow Chapel
6:00 Bob Hausler
7:00 Zydeco Ziggie and Oz Oswald
8:00 Bob Buchanan
9:00 Open Mic with Fred Eurich, Addie Riebschleger, John Tulppo and More
10:00 Siusan O’Rourke and Zig Zeitler
Ziba Ski Lodge Clubhouse
4:30 Riptide (classic rock)
5:30 Zydeco Ziggie and Oz Oswald (Cajun, roots, blues)
6:30 The Reivers (Americana, folk, rock, blues)
7:30 Carrie Traeder (acoustic singer/songwriter)
8:30 The Bearinger Boys (rock, Americana)
9:30 TheHoly Gun (funk, rock)
The event will run from 4:30 pm to 11 PM on Saturday, April 23rd. Tickets are $20.00 for adults, $5.00 for students in advance, and $25 and $10.00 at the door. Credit card phone orders can be made 24/7 by calling 989-776-9425 and tickets are also on sale at Flagstar Bank on Bay Rd., The White Crow Conservatory of Music on Mackinaw, and Westside Decorating on State Street.
A complete dinner buffet is available for $12.00 on sale at the door, with cash bar throughout the evening.