Not just a summer job: After 11 summers at Interlochen Arts Camp, Jessi Woods shares what keeps her coming back

From seeing the Beach Boys in concert to helping students work through homesickness, Woods has seen it all—and she loves her job more than ever.

Jessi Woods smiles as she helps cook a Camp meal.

Seasons come and go, but Jessi Woods keeps returning to work at Interlochen Arts Camp year after year. Once a counselor in HS Lakeside, Woods has spent 11 summers at Interlochen and is now Coordinator of Camp Life. What’s so magical about the Arts Camp experience, and why does she keep coming back? Here, Woods shares her passion for working with young artists, her favorite Camp tradition, and a few reasons why she loves working at Interlochen (hint: one of them has to do with the concerts).

Mentoring creative minds

Over a decade ago, Woods heard about Interlochen from a college friend who was working there. Her interest was immediately piqued. Given her background in flute playing and deep love for the arts, Woods thought a summer as a camp counselor would be a natural fit.

“I was a music education major, so working with kids has always been the long term goal,” she says. “I’m also a musical fanatic. It's kind of ridiculous how much I know about musicals.”

Her work at Arts Camp requires empathy, the creativity to adapt to a variety of situations, and a robust understanding of how to work with students at different age levels—all strengths which Woods has continued to develop in her time at Interlochen. 

I was a music education major, so working with kids has always been the long term goal. I’m also a musical fanatic. It's kind of ridiculous how much I know about musicals.

Jessi Woods

“I’m really good at building connections with kids. I’m a straightforward person, and I try to meet them where they’re at and treat them with respect,” says Woods.

She offers age-appropriate support to students who are struggling with homesickness, especially if they are experiencing their first summer away from home.

“I’ll brainstorm with students and ask them, ‘What is something that you can do right now? What’s a goal that you want to reach in the next two days, or for the next week?’ Being able to set small goals and reach those achievements really helps a lot of these students.”

A uniquely inspiring workplace

During the academic year, Woods works at an after-school program in Columbus, OH. She always looks forward to her summers at Interlochen—for multiple reasons.

“I really enjoy the summer concerts,” she says. “As a cabin counselor, I frequently had to chaperone the students when they attended shows. I’ve seen Harry Connick Jr. twice, plus the Beach Boys and Diana Ross.”

She also enjoys attending student productions.

“Our students truly put on professional-level productions,” she says. “My favorite is ‘Collage’, because of all the energy and variety that go into it. It’s amazing to see how much these students can do within two or three weeks.”

But most of all, Woods appreciates the lasting connections she forms with students and staff alike.

“I love the community that Interlochen has to offer, whether that be the kids or the staff,” she says. “I still have connections with some of my students from as far back as 2013 or 2014! You make really strong connections with the people that you stay with summer after summer. It becomes a home away from home.”

Woods’s journey from counselor to Coordinator of Camp Life highlights the growth opportunities available at Interlochen and the uniqueness of the work environment on campus. For Woods, Interlochen isn’t just another job—it’s a special environment where creativity is nurtured and strong bonds are formed. From supporting young artists to attending world-class performances, she finds joy and meaning beneath the stately pines.

Learn more about working at Interlochen.