"For the first time in my life I realize how normal I really am,” wrote Carol Ebert Oseroff while attending Interlochen Arts Camp. “I’m being praised for being me.”
What a wonderful message for parents to receive from a child—it was confirmation that Interlochen was living up to her family’s hopes for a young singer’s personal and artistic growth and fulfillment.
But her parents didn’t expect what Carol Ebert Oseroff shared next in her 1976 letter from Camp: she told them she was applying to Interlochen Arts Academy. “I just can’t see myself going back to the world I came from. I don’t belong there. I just need to come here.” Carol’s plea was heard, and in the fall of 1976 she began her junior year at the Arts Academy.
Today, Carol is certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology in clinical child and adolescent psychology. As such, Dr. Oseroff has ample ability to characterize the nature of her Interlochen experience.
“As adolescents, our developmental needs were met at Interlochen. We were misfits at home, and at the Academy life was simple. We could focus on our talents and friendships. In the context of this environment we were loved and valued. Every door was open.”
In particular Carol remembers the caring guidance of history teacher Lois Larson Driscoll—“She was like a mother to me”—and choral director Kenneth Jewell—“He could inspire with just a look. He commanded respect and love, and brought the music out of every musician in the room.”
Carol also vividly remembers performing during run-outs to entertain geriatric patients at the state mental hospital in Traverse City. “It was a most incredible experience. Driving up to the building was spectacular—austere and beautiful. We sang Broadway show tunes and the patients got up and danced with delight and abandon. They were appreciative and expressive in their response to us. I never forgot those run-outs, and after those experiences I was never afraid to work with people who had mental health issues.”
A commitment to community service followed Carol from Interlochen to the Eastman School of Music where she began studies as a vocal performance major. At Eastman, however, Carol's competing interests in serving the wider community, originally cultivated at Interlochen, pointed Carol in a new direction. After earning two degrees in special education, teaching in various settings, and obtaining a Ph.D. in counseling and school psychology, Carol now maintains a private assessment and therapy practice in child and adolescent psychology and a consultancy in forensic psychology. Carol serves regularly as an expert witness in court-proceedings involving abused and neglected children in the panhandle of Florida. She also volunteered for many years as a court-appointed special advocate for children in need of protection.
While Carol maintains her involvement in choral music, and carries forward the community-service ethic she developed at the Academy, it was the example set by her husband that turned those ties into philanthropy. “He attended an independent school from pre-K through twelfth grade,” Carol says, “and has always sent that school an annual gift. He encouraged me to do the same for Interlochen.”
Carol says that she and her husband sit down together each year to write the checks for these annual gifts, taking time to reflect. “Our respective schools valued and nurtured something in us when we didn’t even know yet who we were.”
Being a regular annual donor is meaningful for Carol. “Every year I know that with my gift, a little part of me can be at Interlochen,” she says. “It’s a reminder not just of what Interlochen did for me, but of who I became.”
In her senior year at the Arts Academy, Carol wrote home with exciting news. It seems that Byron Hanson, long-time Interlochen music faculty, had asked Carol to sing some solo pieces with the Northwestern Michigan Symphony Orchestra (now the Traverse Symphony Orchestra). “This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” said Carol’s letter, dated February 1978. “Do you realize how many singers my age dream of the opportunity to do what I am doing?”
Now, more than 30 years later, says Carol, a young artist’s opportunity to study at Interlochen is just as important to her. “It’s all there in what my husband said when he first encouraged me to give back. He said ‘You were well-loved by Interlochen. You have a responsibility to the next generation.’”