Launch, pivot, grow: The future of Interlochen Online

With a national search for a director underway, Interlochen Online builds on early success and continues to expand the reach of Interlochen’s renowned instruction.

A girl jots down notes while playing guitar

When Interlochen Online launched in 2020 to continue the 93rd season of Interlochen Arts Camp amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was built upon a foundation of arts innovation of Interlochen.

“When you think about the history of Interlochen, we’ve always been on the cutting edge—whether that meant starting a music camp, founding the first arts boarding high school, or serving as a charter member of NPR,” says Provost Camille Colatosti.

The inaugural season of Interlochen Online was a resounding success, with more than 1,400 students in grades 2-12 taking part in programs in creative writing, dance, film, interdisciplinary arts, music, theatre, and visual arts. “We were completely floored by how organized and professional this experience was for our son,” one parent wrote in the post-session evaluation. “I feel like this should be the model for all schools in the age of virtual learning.”

Nearly two years later, Interlochen Online continues to finetune its offerings and pilot new virtual programs. The newly announced Winter 2020 programs will feature back-by-popular-demand group courses such as Acting for the Camera, Film & Video Game Music Composition, and Recording a Hit Song—as well as new private lesson packages in music, acting, and musical theatre. Affirming its commitment to innovative arts education and expanding student access to Interlochen, the institution recently launched a nationwide search for a full-time director of Interlochen Online.

“We’ve learned that arts education can happen online and be a very positive experience,” Colatosti says. “It’s wonderful to be able to share our expertise beyond Interlochen Arts Camp and Interlochen Arts Academy to reach new audiences.”

From pandemic pivot to permanent program

The unprecedented success of virtual programs during Camp 2020 laid essential technical and curricular groundwork for future online offerings. In fall 2020, Interlochen Online became a permanent fixture as Interlochen Center for the Arts’ sixth business unit.

“We realized after that first summer that Interlochen Online’s programs had intrinsic value—not just as substitutes for the on-campus experience,” Colatosti says. “They were excellent learning opportunities for everyone who participated.”

Participants and parents echoed Colatosti’s observations in their end-of-session surveys, praising Interlochen Online for its exemplary execution and merit as a future offering.

“The behind-the-scenes efforts Interlochen must have gone through to accomplish the successful delivery of deep and high-quality instruction—solely online—in such a brief time period must have been Herculean,” one parent wrote. “The results were sublime. Please consider making fall, winter, or spring break mini-camps available online as well!”

Evolving virtual offerings

For the first summer of Interlochen Online, Colatosti and the Arts Camp faculty focused on providing digital alternatives for every Camp program. But as faculty experience, student interest, and pandemic restrictions continued to evolve, so too did Interlochen Online’s program offerings.

“During the height of the pandemic, students were eager for programs in every arts discipline,” Colatosti says. “Once the world began opening back up, it became clear that students in disciplines that benefit from physical contact, group interaction, or group movement—such as dance, theatre, music—prefer to have those programs in person. Ensemble work is possible in the virtual world, but it’s much more successful and satisfying when the performers can be together in the real world.”

As a result, Colatosti and her colleagues leaned into programs that adapt more readily to the digital platform—such as music composition, visual arts, creative writing, and individual study opportunities. Faculty and staff adapted a startup mindset and continuously adjusted Interlochen Online’s programming to reflect student and parent feedback. The upcoming winter session of Interlochen Online will include several new offerings, including private lesson packages in music and theatre.

“Private lessons work very well in the virtual space, and are often more convenient than lessons in the physical world,” Colatosti says. “One particular area of interest is private theatre instruction. Through Interlochen Online, we’re able to provide a level of individual coaching in both acting and in musical theatre that is not readily available elsewhere.”

College guidance has also become a major emphasis in Interlochen Online programs, both as a component of arts-specific high school programs and as a stand-alone offering. College Audition Boot Camps debuted in the spring of 2021 and received rave reviews.

“The college application/audition process can be overwhelming,” one parent wrote in a post-session survey. “The boot camp gave my daughter the needed tools and resources to get the ball rolling and made the whole process seem much less frightening.”

This winter’s College Advising program builds on the success of previous college preparation options. The two-lesson package pairs each enrolled student with one of Interlochen Arts Academy’s college counselors.

“Our college counselors have a wealth of experience in assisting high school students with college placement,” Colatosti says. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer our services beyond t our current Arts Academy students.”

Expanding Interlochen’s reach

One of Interlochen Online’s greatest strengths is its capacity to expand access to Interlochen’s quality of instruction.

“I don’t know whether I could have been or will be able to make it to Michigan,” wrote one student in their end-of-session survey. “I was so grateful to have the Camp experience brought to me!”

“There are many people who are not able to participate in our on-campus programs—whether they can’t physically get here, the timing does not work for them, or the programs offered are not exactly what they want,” Colatosti said. “Interlochen Online provides another opportunity for these students to access a valuable part of the Interlochen experience.”

Interlochen Online has also served as a gateway to Interlochen’s on-campus programs. Since 2020, 28% of Interlochen Online participants have later enrolled in an Arts Camp or Arts Academy program.

Charting the future

As Interlochen Online continues to grow, Interlochen’s leadership and board recognized the need for a dedicated Interlochen Online staff. In December, a nationwide search began for a full-time director of Interlochen Online.

Reporting directly to Provost Colatosti, the director will manage day-to-day Interlochen Online operations while developing and implementing an overarching vision and strategy for the program’s future.

“We’re looking for someone who is a big thinker, has an entrepreneurial approach, and understands technology and education and how those pieces are developing,” Colatosti says. “The ideal candidate is someone who has boundless ideas about what is possible. ”

“We’re looking for a leader who sees the full potential of Interlochen Online, who will help push it forward so it continues to be groundbreaking, and who is really passionate about reaching a wider audience to consider Interlochen the source for quality arts instruction.”

Now through Dec. 31, save 20% on any Interlochen Online course. Simply use the code WINTER20 at checkout to receive your discount.