Who is Corky Siegel?
“I’ve been trying to figure that out myself. It’s been a long path, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Siegel said with a chuckle.
He is an award-winning and renowned harmonica player and composer. He is a member of the Siegel-Schwall band and the Chamber Blues group, which incorporates classical music and the blues in a unique way. He was invited to perform with John Lennon. He is a Rainbow Cone fan.
But that’s just the superficial aspect.
“When I was a kid…I never looked at a piece of artwork. Instead, I went inside the piece of artwork and explored it,” Siegel said. “A point comes where you realize that there’s this process behind the artwork.”
The same is with music: “You go in the music—let it carry you away. Judging it becomes a flat experience…I decided to try to not judge things,” he said.
He might be a philosopher, too.
Siegel’s musical journey began—“not counting the spring doorstopper I used to play with as a baby”—with a clarinet and continued with the piano, saxophone and guitar. He ultimately became skilled in the harmonica. “It fit into my shirt pocket. It’s practical,” he said.
As a teenager on the South Side of Chicago, Siegel experimented with R&B music and played the works of artists such as Fats Domino, Chuck Barry and Elvis Presley. He was later introduced to the blues and cites Hoagy Carmichael, Billie Holiday, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed as his influences at that time.
“I really fell in love with one element of music: dynamic variation—loud and soft, far and close,” Sigel explained. “The real thing that is of extreme importance to me is this pulsation of dynamics. It’s what I want to bring into the world.”
Siegel quickly became enthralled by the interaction between the musicians and the audience. He calls it his favorite part of performing.
“There’s this feeling that this incredible power and force is rushing through me. I guess you could call it a ‘zone,’ ” he said. “It’s being a small part of something so big. The artist gets way too much credit. We keep forgetting to recognize this profound and amazing thing that the art form is—music. It’s this healing, uplifting, bringing-together force that is almost truly indescribable.
“The musician gets to ride this wave and experience this, but it can exist very well without the artist. Everyone should experience that,” Siegel said. “This power does not require skill. Little kids playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star can experience it. It’s there for everybody.”
Before long, he found himself absorbed in the world of music. Although he said he never made a conscious decision to become a professional musician, Siegel said he has now written about 100 pieces of music.
On Saturday, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m., Siegel and his Chamber Blues group will perform at the Beverly Arts Center. When asked what about the concert he is looking forward to, Siegel simply answered: “Rainbow Cone. Everyone should get there early and go up to Rainbow Cone before the concert.”
He chuckled, and also said that he’s looking forward to “riding the wave of the music, seeing my musician friends and offering the opportunity for the audience to ride the wave with us.
“At this time, as far as I understand, there is no other group in the world that specifically juxtaposes the classics and the blues. It means the classical and blues [elements] exist together,” he said. “It sounds like two flavors working together.”
Kind of like a Rainbow Cone.
Tickets are available at the Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., for $31 or $28 for BAC members. Siegel can also be seen in the soon-to-be-released documentary “Born in Chicago” about the influence of Chicago blues on the music around the world. The documentary also features Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and more. Siegel is also currently working on another album.