Detroit Symphony Orchestra violists reflect on their time at Interlochen

As DSO musicians prepare to perform at Interlochen this summer, Interlochen alumni among them recall their formative Arts Camp experiences.

Eric Nowlin and Shanda Lowery-Sachs

DSO members Eric Nowlin (left) and Shanda Lowery-Sachs (right) at Interlochen Arts Camp.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra will be in residence at Interlochen Arts Camp July 22-24. The musicians will lead master classes for Interlochen Arts Camp intermediate and high school students and will perform on Friday, July 22. DSO musicians will also perform side-by-side with Interlochen’s World Youth Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, July 24.

For many of the DSO musicians, this residency will serve as a homecoming. Currently, 16 Interlochen alumni are in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, continuing an association that dates back to 1926 when Detroit's Orchestra Hall hosted the National High School Honors Orchestra—the ensemble that later evolved into the founding orchestra of Interlochen Arts Camp.

Here, two DSO musicians recall transformative Interlochen moments that impacted their journey of becoming professional instrumentalists.

Shanda Lowery-Sachs

Shanda Lowery-Sachs

Shanda Lowery-Sachs (NMC 85, IAA 87-90) has played viola in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra since 2001.

How Interlochen Arts Camp changed my life

I attended Interlochen Arts Camp as an Intermediate camper in 1985 and had a great summer. It was such a fun atmosphere to be with so many other kids from around the country and world who loved and excelled in the arts. I came from a small town in California where, although there were string programs in the schools, there were not any opportunities outside of the schools, so I often did not like playing the violin and wanted to quit. After my summer at Interlochen, I didn't want to quit anymore, and I looked forward to playing in groups with musicians who were more advanced than me.

After attending one year of public high school, my parents asked if I would like to consider going to Interlochen Arts Academy for high school. I was quite nervous to go and it was a difficult decision, but attending Interlochen Arts Academy was one of the best experiences of my life. When I was there, I loved playing violin in the orchestra, but I never thought I would pursue music in college or as a career. However, when I was in college, I found myself always in the music building, and my favorite class was orchestra, so I decided that I had to pursue my dream and see if I could succeed as a musician. I am very grateful that I had the Interlochen experience that gave me a great foundation to build on and eventually achieve my dream of a full-time orchestra job. I know I could not have done it without the teachers, inspiring students, and amazing artistic atmosphere surrounding me at Interlochen.

My three years at Interlochen Arts Academy were so fun, educational, eye-opening, and important in my life, and I know I would be a very different person without them.

Memorable Interlochen moment

Not only was Interlochen an amazing artistic community, the academic classes and atmosphere were also incredible. The academic faculty was there because they loved teaching these types of students in this creative community. Since I had gone to public high school for one year, I could easily compare the two. Interlochen Arts Academy was an extremely positive and successful academic situation for me, and I thrived on it. Some particularly memorable academic classes were a history class focusing on the Civil War, a Russian Literature Class, and Chemistry. These subjects were interesting but it was the specific teachers of these courses that made them exciting and memorable.

Eric Nowlin

Eric Nowlin

Eric Nowlin (IAC 92, 96, IAA 96-98) joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2016 and serves as Principal Viola.

How Interlochen Arts Camp changed my life

I went to Camp twice, once when I was 12, and the next time when I was 16, so I had different experiences each time. Interlochen was transformational when I was 12 in the sense that I was around other kids that were all interested in arts, and for me, being around so many musicians my age was exhilarating. It was the first time I was away from home for longer than a couple weeks, and taught me to really embrace the Interlochen experience—the cabins, the fresh air, a full daily schedule, and yes, the food! When I was 16, Interlochen was transformational in the sense that I finally understood that I wanted to be a professional musician, and started on my journey to where I am today.

Memorable Interlochen moment

I remember clearly how the spectacle of “Les Préludes” was such an amazing display of all of the campers’ talents in one concert. The joy of the evening was tempered by the sadness that the summer was over, and they combined into a very emotional experience.