Alumna Asks: How Did Interlochen Shape You?

When Camp alumna and Interlochen supporter Becky Vitas Schamis (IAC 84-87) thinks back on the experiences that shaped her, Interlochen is one of the first things that comes to mind. As a ten-year-old with an interest in theater and music growing up on Merritt Island, Florida, she sent off an audition tape and soon found herself on an airplane headed to Interlochen.

“I remember being very homesick,” Becky says of her first summer at Interlochen. “I called my parents frequently but I remember loving it and wanting to go back as soon as I got home.” And she did, for the next three summers. During her summers as a Junior and Intermediate camper, Becky studied chorus and operetta, made lifelong friends, and enjoyed the whole camp experience.

Now living on Long Island with three children of her own, Becky has an even greater understanding of the importance of her time at Interlochen—and a commitment to make it possible for other young artists to have that same experience. “When you become a parent, you realize how important it was as a child to have those experiences, and I realize how thankful I am to my own parents for thinking about this. I think it’s so important to have a place like that, (especially) these days when in many towns music is not necessarily the focus or arts aren’t necessarily the focus. One of the main reasons I give is because I want any child who wants to (go to Interlochen) to be able to experience something like that.”

Whether attending a performance at the local children’s theatre or traveling into New York City to take in a show, Becky traces her enthusiasm as an avid audience member and arts supporter to the many times she sat in the audience at Interlochen. “Some of my best memories—and I always think about this when I’m at a concert—are of sitting in Kresge as a ten-year-old and hearing WYSO play. Even if you don’t always understand the music or know what they’re playing, it’s still instilling an appreciation in you.” She also remembers the feeling of watching her friends perform, thinking, “Wow, those are my peers in the band or in that show or dancing. They’re not strangers. They’re my friends, and they’re up there doing what they love to do.” Becky notes that many of those friends have gone on to work in the arts professionally, thanks to the confidence and skills they received at Interlochen at a young age.

In 2009, Becky returned to Interlochen for the first time in more than 20 years and found much of it unchanged. “It was a really warm feeling. So much is the same: the same setting on the lake, seeing Kresge and main campus -- that really brought back a lot of warm and fond memories.”

As a parent and a donor, Becky is also happy to see the ways that Interlochen has changed. “There are a lot of new parts to it as well,” she comments. “It’s nice to see so much growth. The administration has a focus and a direction, where they want to build and new programs they want to create. You could feel that and you could see that, and I think it’s really important.”

For alumni who are thinking back on their own time at Interlochen, she encourages them to think about the question: what shaped you? If Interlochen is part of the answer to that question, as it is for her, then she encourages alumni to join her in giving back.