Popular Performance at Arts Academy

Why Study Popular Performance

From dance hits to moody blues, soulful r&b to nostalgic folk, punk rock to alt rap, at Interlochen you'll learn to play and express yourself through various styles while developing your own unique sound. Through intensive practice and performance, you'll gain your command of multiple genres and prepare for a successful professional career.

What You’ll Learn

In the Popular Performance track, you’ll take a combination of private and studio lessons. You'll learn key aspects of performance and develop the necessary skills to play or sing at your highest level, with a foundation in music theory and musicianship.

Your instructors have extensive teaching and industry experience. They’ll help you find your personal style, gain confidence, and cultivate your singular expression. Your faculty will also provide guidance toward your college search or career path.

As a student at our boarding school for popular performance, you will:

  • Demonstrate efficient and professional practices in rehearsal and performance
  • Analyze various musical styles throughout history
  • Perform on your primary instrument, which includes voice
  • Collaborate with other Interlochen students, writing songs, arranging instrumentation, and performances
  • Communicate personal musical vision to others using common music theory terminology and notation systems including Nashville numbers, charts, and lead sheets
  • Understand how to best support an artist’s music and explain another artist’s vision to a musical group or producer
  • Create professional quality recordings of songs using the digital audio workstations
  • Build a professional portfolio of repertoire including recordings

How to Apply

Core Curriculum

Audition Requirements

For more information on graduation requirements and academic curriculum, please visit Academy Academics.

Explore Ensembles

Popular Music

Named for iconic backing bands of the 21st century, the Popular Music Ensembles provide hands-on learning opportunities for aspiring contemporary musicians.



The Choir welcomes students of all majors who are passionate about singing—presenting works from a variety of genres, musical eras, and geographic origins and performing regularly at events both on and off campus.


Meet the Faculty

Our faculty members have extensive experience as recording artists, producers, and industry professionals. They continue to release their own music even as they devote their time to nurturing future voices and performing artists.

All Faculty

Courtney Kaiser-Sandler

Courtney Kaiser-Sandler

Associate Director of Contemporary Music and Collaborative Projects; Instructor of Singer-Songwriter

Tom Childs

Thomas Childs, D.M.A.

Chair of Music Fundamentals; Instructor of Music Theory

Matthew Cochran

Matthew Cochran, D.M.

Instructor of Guitar

Joshua Davis

Joshua Davis

Director of Popular Music; Instructor of Singer-Songwriting

Brad Novak

Brad Novak

Instructor of Percussion

Guest Artists

  • Sydney James Harcourt, musician, actor, dancer, and theatrical producer
  • Quiana Lynell, blues and jazz singer, arranger, songwriter
  • Makeba Riddick, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter

Program Highlights

Music Theory

In addition to working extensively on your performance skills, all music majors at the Academy take Music Theory courses. In these courses you’ll receive thorough training in all basic musicianship skills; you’ll preview advanced, college-level theory; and you’ll explore the creative process through composition of concert music.

Awards & Honors

Interlochen Arts Academy Popular Performance students have the opportunity to pursue awards such as Interlochen's own prestigious Fine Arts award and the National YoungArts Foundation's Voice award.

The Music Center

Our state-of-the-art 60,000 square-foot music facility has two 3,500 square-foot rehearsal halls, two recording studios which allow for rehearsal and performance recordings in multiple venues on campus with multiple ensemble and practice rooms, and individual faculty teaching studios. Learn more about The Music Center.

College Matriculation

Popular Performance students regularly enroll in top music programs and conservatories including:

  • Belmont University
  • Berklee College of Music
  • California Institute of the Arts
  • Detroit Institute of the Arts
  • Institute of Contemporary Performance
  • Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
  • Los Angeles College of Music
  • Loyola University
  • Musicians Institute
  • The New School
  • New York University
  • Syracuse University
  • University of Hartford
  • University of Miami
  • University of Southern California

See what you can experience at Interlochen.

Come to a high school where young creatives thrive—and see how your unique journey unfolds. Plan your visit, request more information, or apply to Interlochen Arts Academy today.