June 5, 2020
Dear Interlochen Community,
Over the past months, our country has struggled in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. With concern for our families, friends, and communities, I have often heard and felt the desire to “get back to normal.”
Unfortunately, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others are a stark reminder of our country’s normal: four centuries of violence and injustice against people of color. Their deaths fill me with outrage and sadness, and I can only imagine the grief felt by the Black community.
This raises, once again, the question of Interlochen’s role in combating racism. In recent days, I’ve asked several Black leaders from our Interlochen community—students, alumni, faculty, staff, artists-in-residence, and past and present trustees—for their guidance. These leaders reinforced who we are and what we are called to do.
I was reminded of Interlochen’s founding mission—the promotion of world friendship through the universal language of the arts—that directly opposes racism and hate. I was reminded of the personal growth that happens in our community when young artists from every background and walk of life come together. I was reminded of the power of art to change perspectives. I was reminded that our diverse, global community has the power to support social justice and effect change.
I was also reminded that there is so much for us to do.
Many institutions have shared messages of solidarity during this painful week, and we, too, stand with our Black and Brown community. This begins with an acknowledgement of the necessary work we need to do at Interlochen and our commitment to change. In one of my first communications to our campus community, I talked about being “the best at getting better.” The idea is to always seek that next level. Like any great organization, we need to identify and address the biases and practices that separate us from fully living up to our mission.
This work will continue with conversations with the Black members of our community. Within the coming weeks, I will convene a meeting with our Black faculty and staff members. I want to better understand what needs to happen on our campus, especially as we prepare for the return of our Academy students in the fall. In the weeks to follow, I will convene other forums for students, alumni, and volunteers. Together, we are an institution with boundless potential, and we will be an even greater force for positive change.
In that spirit, I close with my thanks to those in our community who are working in their own way to make our world a better place. One great example is New York Philharmonic Principal Clarinetist Anthony McGill (IAC 91, 93, IAA 94-96), who speaks through art in this peaceful protest.
There is much left to do, but the creative changemakers of Interlochen continue to offer us a path forward to the “new normal.”
Trey Devey, President