Musical Magic at Summit School
A Sitdown with DJ Mike Siegel
We recently had the chance to travel down into the basement of the Miramare Creative Arts Center at Summit School in Nyack, NY for a chance to see Michael Siegel (aka DJ Mikey Mike…or “Magic Mike” as his students dubbed him) in his domain. This isn’t like most music rooms you might imagine in a high school — this place feels like a Jazz club or coffee shop you wouldn’t mind being stuck at. We sat down with the school’s Musical Director to learn more.
DJ Magic Mike…Where did the nickname come from?
A few years ago, one of my music students at Summit started calling me “Magic-Mike” based on a film character…that I was Not At All Familiar With. However, I accepted the name with flattery because we had a great, fun connection in the Music Class, and it worked as a way to keep things light and friendly as well as motivational for my students to be in the room with “MAGIC-MIKE”! That name, along with the fact that I often DJ for our outdoor field events, started a whole new groove… and so the nickname DJ Magic-Mike was born and has stuck ever since!! I find it incredibly flattering because I take it as a sign of endearment from both staff and students alike! My long career has been filled with entertaining audiences as a musician and over the many years, I’ve had several fun nicknames. Nicknames can be a wonderful way to feel complimented, accepted, and admired.
What is your official title at the school?
My official title is simply Music Teacher. However, in the event of conducting or arranging a performance, I’m usually referred to as “Musical Director.”
How long have you worked at Summit School?
I began working at Summit School in June of 2016, so that brings me into my 6th year.
Why do you work here?
I love to share my knowledge and expertise from my many years in the music industry. Summit School offered me the perfect opportunity to work with students who need inspiration and guidance in all aspects of the music industry. Whether the student is a beginner or one that is considering a career in the industry, I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to share my professional experiences which hopefully can motivate and help them to develop their talent at their own pace. The best payoff for a teacher is to be able to say that we were able to help that student become successful in life.
What’s your favorite thing about working here?
My favorite thing about working at Summit is to work with such wonderful people!! Caring, compassionate, and professional!! And, if I might add…
The view of the Hudson River every day ain’t too shabby either!!
“Piano offers the foundation of musical knowledge for every musician.” — Mike Siegel
What’s the most exciting thing you’re currently working on? And building on that, what does personal and professional success look like to you?
The most exciting thing right now is helping my students to prepare for an upcoming performance at our next concert event, which will most likely be a Virtual Valentine’s Concert.
If I could dream about a student project becoming successful, it would surely be two-fold… meaning personally and professionally.
The personal form of success would inspire my students to believe in themselves and to keep pursuing and improving themselves in a particular aspect of the musical arts which could be anything from composition to performance to music production. Finding complete satisfaction and fulfillment in staying focused on improving themselves on a daily basis. Similar to becoming stronger each day in the gym.
On a professional level…success might be seen as becoming famous by having their song published in the public forum and recorded by a well-known artist particular to the genre that they were aiming for.
Success is indeed relative. Do you have a favorite instrument?
I’m a professional percussionist by trade…I started playing at the age of five. So I have to be biased about my favorite musical instrument (drums)….I love the sound of great rudimentary chops on a snare drum. Guys like Buddy Rich — Max Roach — Gene Krupa and today’s Chris Coleman — These cats… are still the Legends of the Day!!
That said…anyone wanting to be a serious musician should also have a solid foundation in Piano (acoustic or electric). Piano offers the foundation of musical knowledge for every musician. Basic knowledge about Melody — Harmony — Rhythm — Theory and Arranging skills, all come from the piano. I regret not having studied piano much earlier in my career, but hindsight is always 20–20!!
Why is a music program so valuable to students here?
Our music program at Summit is incredibly vital for our students. It teaches them to be mindful of life’s fundamentals…It teaches them focus, self-esteem, and creativity. And most importantly, our music program teaches them to be “GOOD LISTENERS” & “COMMUNICATORS”. These are thee life skills that are invaluable for not only our Summit students but for all of us!!
How does the team approach at Summit help you overcome the challenges you face at work?
The Ol’ saying holds true at Summit, which is “It takes a village”. We work with an incredible Staff and Administration It’s truly the only way to overcome our everyday challenges. Our team approach is really the main ingredient to helping our students thrive and move ahead.
What are the underlying benefits students gain from a well-rounded program like Summit?
The underlying benefits that students gain at Summit is knowing that there will always be support available to them as they pursue their path in life.
How do you feel Summit students are better prepared for life after graduation?
I feel that our students are prepared as well as can be. Summit offers a wide array of therapies and vocational experiences for its students to take advantage of. This is a specialized environment that does the best it can, to help students achieve success in whatever life path they choose.
Lastly, finish this sentence:
If my students could remember one thing that I taught them, it would be…To always know that each day is the first day of the rest of their life and to strive to always be better than they were the day before!
The words of a very wise and talented man. Every student would be better having had a teacher like Mike Siegel, more proof of just how vital it is to support the arts in schools. Look for continued stories from Summit School and its staff as the educator in me very much respects and admires what they’re doing. I’m your friendly neighborhood MC Bravado; many thanks for reading. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and/or your favorite place to grab music. Please remember to be kind to one another and that “Michael Jordan is the GOAT” is a fact and not an opinion.