On Juneteenth: Interlochen’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion

June 19, 2020

Dear Interlochen community,

On this day, 155 years ago, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas and declared that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” The Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two and a half years earlier, but it wasn’t until word spread of Granger’s announcement that over 200,000 Black people enslaved in Texas knew themselves to be free, and Juneteenth, or “Freedom Day,” was born.

It was nearly 80 years later when the Civil Rights Movement achieved the first of many laws that granted African Americans equal rights. Yet, over 70 years after that movement began, the senseless deaths of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and far too many others demonstrate pervasive injustice. Systemic racism continues to permeate all aspects of our society. Black lives matter.

For over 90 years, Interlochen has been a leader in arts and education with a bold global vision. Our guiding principle, to promote “world friendship through the universal language of the arts,” is emblazoned on the stage of Kresge Auditorium for all to see. This statement is a core value as well as a call to action and a constant reminder of the standard we must work toward every day to bring true diversity, equity, and inclusion to Interlochen.

This Juneteenth, we affirm our commitment to ensuring that young people from all backgrounds build their confidence and develop their potential as part of our supportive and inclusive community. Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, we set the following five goals last July:

  • Recruit and enroll more students of color at Interlochen Arts Camp and Interlochen Arts Academy.
  • Recruit and retain an increased number of faculty and staff from underrepresented communities.
  • Enhance diversity and inclusion educational programming and training for students, faculty, and staff.
  • Review and enhance curriculum, teaching, and learning to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Ensure that Interlochen’s policies, institutional infrastructure, and student services foster diversity, equity, and inclusion. We must also be ready to respond rapidly and skillfully to discriminatory activities.

Informed by conversations with our faculty and staff over the past few weeks, we have embarked upon the following steps to achieve these goals, with additional plans under development:

  • All faculty and staff will participate in implicit bias training as part of our re-entry plan for the upcoming school year. The Campus Safety team will participate in this training as well as additional training specific to campus safety professionals. Our local community police officer will also take part to further our shared understanding.
  • We will meet with our regional law enforcement leaders to open up a dialogue and communicate the values of Interlochen.
  • We will update the hiring process to align with our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and this process will be standardized across all departments. No new hires will be authorized until these new protocols are in place.
  • We will convene Interlochen leaders with staff, faculty, students, and alumni at regular intervals to provide a safe space for reflection and recommendations as we continue to advance our efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

All of this work will be supported and monitored by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group of the Board of Trustees, which includes a representative from every committee of the board to ensure this work is embedded in every aspect of our governance. Progress toward these goals is reviewed annually by the full Board of Trustees as part of Interlochen’s Organizational Health Report Card.

We know that we have much work yet to do. Meaningful change, so desperately needed, must occur at an institution that shapes how thousands of young students perceive the world and one another. As we move forward, we will seek to find ways to dedicate not just time and effort, but also greater resources toward creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community for young artists. This is the only way Interlochen will foster the highest standards of artistic quality, academic excellence, and creative expression.

Today, as we join together with the African American community in celebration of Juneteenth, we are showcasing extraordinary artwork and performances by artists of color in our community on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Tune in to IPR to hear the work of African American composers featured all day. We hope these works will inspire you not only to rally behind our organization-wide efforts, but to champion the Interlochen values of respect and inclusion of all people within your own lives.

We are listening and welcome your comments. Please feel free to email us at listening@interlochen.org.


Trey Devey

Dr. Camille Colatosti

Dr. Barrett J. Rollins (IAC/NMC 64-65, 68)
Chair, Board of Trustees Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force

The Honorable Kurtis T. Wilder (Ret.)
Vice Chair, Board of Trustees