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10 reasons we can’t wait for Interlochen Arts Camp

From morning bugle calls to rousing all-Camp convocations, here’s why we’re counting down the days until campers’ return to Interlochen.

Intermediate students wave socks during First Gathering

Intermediate students wave socks during First Gathering.

Last summer, for the first time in 93 years, the Interlochen campus was quiet. Interlochen Online inspired a whirlwind of creativity and friendship virtually, but with the Interlochen campus closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, practice huts, stages, cabins, and waterfronts remained empty.

Grounds technician Scott Bonjernoor recalls hearing only squirrels and birds when he paused from mowing lawns. “I always look forward to witnessing art that would just happen in random places,” he recalls. “I’d hold off mowing and just listen to students play their instruments or rehearse their lines. Those moments disappeared last summer.”

Finally, in just three days, campers will return to Interlochen Arts Camp once again—and our faculty and staff couldn’t be more excited to welcome them back. Here are just a few reasons why we’re counting down the days until their return.

Morning bugle calls

A trumpeter plays morning bugle calls

A trumpeter plays morning bugle calls.

It’s a melody and memory shared by most Arts Camp alumni: “Reveille,” played right outside your cabin window.

“One of my fondest memories as a Camp counselor is serving as the morning bugler,” recalls Melissa Birdsey, a content producer on Interlochen’s Strategic Communications team. “As the bugler, you have the privilege of waking up ten minutes before everyone else to warm up. Those ten minutes are glorious—the bird calls, the mist rising off of Green Lake, a serenity so profound it feels almost sacrilegious to shatter it. There’s something truly magical about playing ‘First Call’ and knowing that you’ve just played the first notes of the day—and that your song is the first memory of a day these students will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Though traditionally played by a trumpeter, the morning bugle calls can be played by any musician who wishes to participate in the tradition.

“We had calls played by a flute choir and sung by vocalists,” Birdsey says. “One morning, on my day off, the substitute bugler overslept. The division director had to play the calls on a kazoo!”

The thrill of First (and Second) Gathering

Intermediate students wave socks during First Gathering

Intermediate students wave socks during First Gathering.

A palpable feeling of connectedness to the entire Interlochen community begins with a rousing all-Camp convocation.

“At First and Second Gathering, cheering can be heard far and wide as students release their passions and start on their Interlochen journey,” says Executive Dean of Enrollment Management Katherine Luellen. “Their excitement and nervous energy often move me to tears.”

First and Second Gathering conclude with the singing of Interlochen’s Camp song, “Sound the Call.” Voice Chair Jeff Norris, who joined the Camp faculty in 1986, traditionally leads the sing-along.

“There’s always tremendous energy and excitement,” he says. “One particular joy in those first days was to watch [longtime Interlochen Arts Camp choral conductor] Mel Larimer lead the campers in a rousing rendition of ‘Sound The Call.’ In time, Mel would become a wonderful friend and mentor. In many ways, our relationship is a snapshot of the Camp and what it means to so many—forming friendships that last a lifetime through shared artistic endeavors.”

(First Gathering 2021 will be livestreamed at live.interlochen.org on Sunday, June 27, at 7 p.m. ET.)

Music everywhere

A cellist rehearses outside a practice cabin.

A cellist rehearses outside a practice cabin.

It’s impossible to walk through the Interlochen campus in the summer and not hear music—from cabins, practice huts, and indoor and outdoor performance spaces across Interlochen’s 1,200 acres.

Stephanie Pierce, Interlochen’s director of annual giving, recalls sitting outside Stone Cafeteria eating lunch with friends when she heard a sound getting louder and louder and a student shout, “Here they come!” Suddenly a percussion ensemble marched through Main Camp “having a fabulous time” with an impromptu lunchtime performance. “My colleagues tell me it happens every summer,” Pierce says, “and nobody is ever quite sure when it will be.”

For Ian Jones, director of engagement, the “Interlochen summer soundtrack” encompasses “a mix of wind and water, music and song, pointe shoes and brush strokes, line rehearsals and laughter. The euphony of sights, sounds, and creativity that take over our campus when students are here is why we are all here to support them.”

Moments of quiet reflection in nature

A creative writer works in nature

A creative writer works on a piece in the forest.

With 1,200 wooded acres and two lakes, the Interlochen campus offers scenic spots for quiet contemplation.

Kathleen Kasdorf, director of planned giving, loves seeing visual arts students and writers quietly working on projects all over campus. “With many students being cooped up at home over the past year, I can’t wait to see them soak up the beauty of northern Michigan and find the perfect spot to sketch a drawing or draft a story.”

Learning in our community garden at peak bloom

Campers attend a pollinators class at the greenhouse

Campers attend a pollinators class at the greenhouse.

Over the winter, Arts Academy students learn about and cultivate plants in the R.B. Annis Botanical Lab and Community Garden. But it’s the Camp students who see the complex truly come alive.

“During the summer, our gardens are lush and green, and the produce is full and bountiful,” says Emily Umbarger, Interlochen’s director of sustainability. “Our pollinator beds are in bloom with native perennials like goldenglow, New England aster, nodding onions, Purple coneflower, and St. John's wort. We host cabin nights for our campers to come learn about pollinators, composting, and growing their own vegetables.”

Seeing our new Dance Center, Interdisciplinary Arts Space, and Music Center come to life this summer

One of the new studios in the Dance Center

One of the new studios in the Dance Center.

This summer, for the first time, Interlochen Arts Camp students will take advantage of new state-of-the art facilities: our lakeside Dance Center, 62,000 square-foot Music Center, and our newly renovated Interdisciplinary Arts Space, a black box theatre and new classroom. Outfitted with cutting-edge technology, each arts hub rivals the facilities of professional artists, with thoughtfully constructed features designed to foster community.

At the Dance Center, eight-foot windows encircle each studio, offering unparalleled views of Green Lake. “Students will draw inspiration, focus, and rejuvenation from the spectacular, panoramic views all summer,” says Director of Dance Joseph Morrissey.

Witnessing a sense of awe

Students perform in a rock and pop concert

Students perform in a rock and pop concert.

For the Camp’s faculty, the finest moments of the summer are not the performances and exhibitions, but the multitude of small breakthroughs that happen along the way.

“I can honestly say that I have seen hundreds of young people realize the course of their lives changed because of these unique artistic encounters,” says Voice Chair Jeff Norris. “It is truly a blessing to participate in a very tangible manner in developing these young artists.”

Larry Hurst, who has taught double bass at Camp for more than 50 summers, agrees. “What I love most is the opportunity to see young minds get turned on to the majesty, wonder, and vastness of the art of music in all its many forms,” he says. “To see that awe translate into the first steps of a lifetime journey in pursuit of artistic and communicative excellence is a true privilege.”

Live broadcasts and webcasts

Dr. Leslie Dunner conducts the World Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Dr. Leslie Dunner conducts the World Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Since 1930, when Interlochen Arts Camp began airing its Sunday evening orchestra concerts over the CBS and NBC radio networks, Interlochen has regularly broadcasted performances and presentations. This summer, while visitors will not be able to attend student performances due to health-and-safety protocols, family and friends can tune in to many performances via webcast and Interlochen Public Radio.

“We’re so excited to return to live broadcasts of performances from Camp this summer,” says Amanda Sewell, music director for Interlochen Public Radio. “You might not be able to attend the concerts in person, but you can still experience them live on the radio—a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of Interlochen!”

(Tune in to Classical IPR online or download the app for your mobile device.)

Fostering lifetime friendships

A group of friends pose on Osterlin Mall

A group of friends pose on Osterlin Mall during Pre-Collage activities.

Between rehearsals, classes, meals, and such traditional camp activities as boating, campfires, and swimming, opportunities abound for relaxation, fun, and friendship.

“Getting to know fellow musicians from around the world made my Interlochen experience enriching and truly special,” says Enrique Márquez (IAA, IAC 96-98), Interlochen’s new director of music. “I realized that we had so much in common, from sharing dreams to a passion for making music of the highest calibre. I am still good friends with many of my peers from Camp, and they continue to enrich my life today.”

Les Préludes

Students perform "Les Preludes" in the Interlochen Bowl

Students perform "Les Préludes" in the Interlochen Bowl.

A Camp tradition since 1928, a performance of Franz Liszt’s “Les Préludes” in the outdoor Interlochen Bowl closes the Interlochen Arts Camp season. The tradition expanded to include the choir in 1941, the band in 1943, and dancers in 1944, who cascade through the aisles and on the roof of the Bowl.

For renowned conductor and Interlochen alumnus Cristian Măcelaru (IAA 97-99, IAC 98), this summer’s performance holds special significance: it will be the first time that he conducts the piece in person after being named the inaugural artistic director and principal conductor of the World Youth Symphony Orchestra, Interlochen Arts Camp’s flagship musical ensemble.

“I await with much anticipation the wonderful live sounds that will fill our hearts as the final chords of ‘Les Préludes’ define yet again our determined commitment to transform the world through the language of the arts.”