This page gives us an opportunity to introduce one of our members “up close and personal”. Our featured player this month is Mike Seifried, tenor saxophone.
Mike grew up in a musical family in southern Indiana near Louisville, Kentucky. His mother was a church organist and music educator. His father had been a drummer in his youth and gave Mike an appreciation for jazz. He started playing the clarinet in the fourth grade and in high school added the tenor saxophone. “My father still compares the sound I produced during the first few weeks of learning to play the tenor sax to listening to a dying goose.”
Music was a big part of Mike’s life in high school and college. “I played in concert bands, jazz bands, pep bands, German bands (Heine’s Happy Five), woodwind quintets – you name it. If they needed a clarinet or sax player, I was happy to volunteer.” That was also the period when Mike discovered the joy of playing jazz. “It was a unique time when jazz musicians like Dave Brubeck and Stan Getz actually made it into the pop charts. I had some friends from the high school band, who were also jazz fans and played piano and bass. We went to their house after school, listened to records by the jazz greats, and then tried to emulate what we heard.”
After graduating from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, Mike headed off to The Ohio State University with a fellowship to pursue a master’s degree. But after one year there, Uncle Sam had other ideas about Mike’s future, and Mike ended up in the US Army. A few months after graduating from Army Officer Candidate School in Ft. Benning, Mike went to Vietnam as a 2nd Lieutenant in the infantry. He didn’t finish out his tour in Vietnam, because he was wounded and sent back to the US with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He finished the rest of his hitch in the Army at Ft. Dix.
After finishing his military commitment, Mike returned to graduate school and completed his degree. After a brief time teaching German and Medieval & Renaissance Studies at OSU, Mike embarked on a career in international marketing. “Life is full of surprises. International marketing turned out to be a very rewarding career, but it meant a heavy travel schedule that required me to be out of the country a lot, often 2 or 3 weeks at a time,” says Mike, who speaks fluent German as well as business-level Spanish and Danish. “There just was no time for making music, so I ended up taking a ‘brief’ musical hiatus of 30 years.”
As the year 2000 approached, Mike finally found himself in a job that didn’t require such extensive travel, and he got the itch to restart his musical life. “To say that I was a little rusty was an understatement. I found a good teacher to help me get back all the basics and develop my jazz chops. He got me going in the right direction.” About a year later, Mike had the opportunity to take a job in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he worked for three years. While there, he continued to practice and work on technique as well as enjoy listening to a lot of jazz. “Copenhagen is one of the best cities in Europe for jazz. Live jazz is easy to find almost any night of the week.”
Upon returning to the US in 2004, one of the first things Mike did was join the Montgomery County Concert Band. “This was the first ensemble playing I had done in over 30 years, so I was really nervous at first. But I worked hard at it, and by the start of the summer concert season, I was ready to go.” He also began playing in jazz groups. At first it was “rehearsal bands” – jazz bands that play for fun but rarely play in public – then he teamed up with a piano player to play live gigs as a jazz duo. As time went on, he also started adding swing bands and jazz bands to his musical activities. He currently plays lead tenor in the Doylestown Heat jazz band.
“The Montgomery County Concert Band will always occupy a special place in my heart for giving me the opportunity to get my musical feet back on the ground,” says Mike. “It is a great group of musicians, and I am very proud to count myself as a member.”