Investing in excellence: Endowed positions attract and celebrate world-class faculty

Inspired by transformational experiences and life-changing guidance, endowed faculty chairs fill in curricular gaps and ensure continued access to exceptional instruction.

Dr. Lauren Hunt and Joan Holland

Linda VanSickle Smith French Horn Chair Dr. Lauren Hunt (left) and Nelson Family Harp Chair Joan Holland (right).

Since 1978, Joan Raeburn Holland has taught harp at both Interlochen Arts Camp and Interlochen Arts Academy. In her four-and-a-half-decade tenure, Joan has helped hundreds of young harpists refine their artistry and chart paths to their next chapters.

In 2005, Carly Nelson (IAC 02, IAA 05-07, IAC St 13-14,17) joined Joan’s studio at Interlochen Arts Academy. Although Carly had a deep passion for music and a strong desire to become a professional harpist, Carly and her parents were concerned that classical music was not a viable career path. Through Joan’s tutelage, Carly gained the skills, confidence, and guidance to pursue a career in music.

“Interlochen was a transformative experience for our daughter,” said Carly’s father, Bill Nelson. “She went from someone who could play the harp to someone who thought she could make a living as a harpist. Had she not gone to Interlochen—and had she not studied with Joan Holland—she wouldn't be a professional harpist today.”

In 2021, Carly’s parents, Bill and Linda Nelson, established the Nelson Family Harp Chair to honor Joan’s exceptional mentorship and to ensure world-class instruction for future generations of Arts Academy harp students.

The Nelson Family position is one of five endowed faculty positions created in the past several years as part of Interlochen’s ongoing efforts to enhance the educational experience by investing in world-class faculty—a key component of Vision 2028.

“Endowed faculty positions enable Interlochen to recruit and retain the very best faculty,” said John Bogley, Vice President of Philanthropy and Engagement. “These positions allow us to celebrate the incredible talent already on our faculty and add new members who can further enrich the Interlochen community.”

Celebrating transformational experiences

For donors, supporting endowed positions is an opportunity to celebrate their own transformational experiences at Interlochen while empowering future generations of students to enjoy the same life-changing moments.

On Aug. 9, 1959, composer and Eastman School of Music Director Howard Hanson led the National High School Orchestra in a performance of his own work, Symphony No. 2, “Romantic.” The orchestra’s principal hornist, Linda VanSickle Smith (IAC/NMC 57-60), played the piece’s soaring horn solo. At the conclusion of the program, Hanson invited Linda to stand for applause—and later, offered her a full scholarship to Eastman School of Music.

The performance was a defining moment for Linda, setting her on a path to a successful career in music and social work. Decades later, Linda’s formative summers at Interlochen inspired her to help other young musicians attend Interlochen Arts Camp through the Linda VanSickle Smith Annual Scholarship in French Horn.

This year, Linda took her commitment to Interlochen’s horn program a step further by establishing the Linda VanSickle Smith French Horn Chair. Dr. Lauren Hunt joined the Interlochen Arts Academy faculty this fall as the inaugural holder of the chair.

“I’m so excited about this opportunity to work with Interlochen’s amazing French horn students,” Hunt said. “Linda’s generous gift will allow the next generation of young horn artists to thrive in this unique place.”

Adding depth and breadth

In addition to the Nelson and VanSickle Smith chairs, three other chairs are being established to further enhance Interlochen’s piano and percussion programs.

“Endowed positions allow us to deepen and broaden our curricular offerings as we add new positions, enriching our robust curriculum,” Bogley said.

The Allen B. Cutting John Manuel Camp Percussion Chair honors the commitment and dedication of Life Trustee John F. Manuel (IAC/NMC 81-82, IAA 82-83) and Allen B. Cutting. Funded by the Cutting Foundation, the chair supports a Camp faculty position in percussion in memory of both Allen B. Cutting and John Manuel. The gift from the foundation celebrates the long affiliation of the Cutting and Manuel families with Interlochen.

The Hamann Family Jazz Piano Chair will enable the jazz program to realize one of its greatest opportunities by hiring a permanent, full-time instructor of jazz piano–a first for Interlochen. Thanks to this position, Academy piano students interested in jazz will be able to receive one-on-one instruction with an emphasis on jazz styles, improvisation, and potential career outcomes. The instructor of jazz piano will also lead one of the Academy’s jazz combos; teach improvisation classes; and create a new class on jazz composition and arrangement.

The Marjorie Drackett Chair in Piano, which is funded by Marjorie’s family in her memory, will ensure that piano instruction remains a top priority at Interlochen. The chair assures the continuation of the high-quality instruction Interlochen alumni, parents, and friends have experienced for decades.

Investing in the continuity of excellence

As Interlochen draws closer to its centennial, Bogley and the Philanthropy team continue their efforts to ensure that Interlochen students will have access to acclaimed faculty well into the institution’s second century.

“We seek to endow multiple positions in the faculty—particularly new chairs—in fulfillment of the aspirations of Vision 2028,” Bogley said. “While we are honored to already have five endowed chair commitments, we envision the creation of many more faculty chairs. As we meet with supporters, we share the particular interests that Interlochen has in expanding our faculty and listen carefully to donors who may wish to give a gift in an area they care about.”

“Our faculty enrich the learning experience at Interlochen and enliven the dream for our students,” Bogley continued. “Through endowed chairs, we can offer our faculty the personal and professional recognition that comes from holding an endowed position while assuring our students that we have hired the best possible faculty to serve as their mentors.”

Interested in supporting an endowed faculty chair? Contact John Bogley at