How does a young violinist and visual artist from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, grow up to become a writer on one of the top crime dramas on network television? He starts out by spending four summers at Interlochen Arts Camp, surrounded by creative peers and supportive adults who help him believe that he really can pursue a life in the arts. This summer, Dave Kalstein (IAC 88-90, 93) is giving another young person the opportunity to experience that same creative, supportive environment that shaped his early years as an artist.
Dave first arrived at Camp as an 11-year-old junior, toting his violin case. In subsequent summers, he switched his focus to visual arts. Although there wasn’t a creative writing Camp program at that time, the Interlochen community nonetheless encouraged Dave’s developing interest in writing. “It was a place where I could read my poetry to other kids and they wouldn’t laugh at me,” Dave says. “It was a place where I could try out stories on my peers and they’d give me critique. We didn’t know we were workshopping writing because we were only 13 years old, but that’s what we were doing.”
For Dave, just being immersed in the culture of Interlochen made the difference. “Interlochen made me believe that I could pursue something creative for a living, and it made me believe that there were people like me out there.” He went on to pursue writing professionally, first as a magazine writer in New York and then in Hollywood as a scriptwriter and novelist. Today he’s a writer/producer for "NCIS: Los Angeles" on CBS.
When production started on "NCIS: Los Angeles" in 2009, Dave was surprised to discover two other Interlochen alumni on the set: Academy alumna Linda Hunt (IAA 62-64) and Camp alumnus Barrett Foa (IAC 92-95). Barrett and Dave even shared one summer together at Camp in the high school boys division. After learning about Barrett’s ongoing relationship with Interlochen as a guest artist and a donor, Dave began thinking about giving back as well.
This year, Dave established the Dave Kalstein Scholarship to help a high school camper study creative writing at Interlochen Arts Camp. He thought about naming the scholarship after his parents or someone else who has helped him along the path to success but decided instead that it was important for the recipient to know his story: that out there in Hollywood, there’s a guy named Dave Kalstein, and one day, twenty years ago, he was just like you.
Looking back at his own experience at Camp, one memory stands out: sitting in Kresge as the sun set over Green Lake listening to Yo Yo Ma perform the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the World Youth Symphony Orchestra. Dave remembers, “I looked at my friend Katie playing onstage, and she was crying. And I looked around at my guy friends, and they were all crying. And that made me start to cry. No one was ashamed, and everyone just got it. It was a really special night. When we walked back to the (high school) boys division, we talked about it the way guys talk about a football game. And that’s the thing about Interlochen: you don’t have to be the person on stage to have moments like that. You can be the person in the audience and still be a part of that amazing moment.”
Dave understands that those moments matter. For many young artists, the idea of pursuing their dream of a life in the arts seems like a fantasy. “Ask anyone who does something in the arts for a living,” Dave says, “and they’ll all be able to identify a moment when the dream started to feel real to them. Interlochen is where that happened for me.” With the Dave Kalstein Scholarship, Dave hopes to make that moment possible for other young writers at Interlochen.