Q&A with Charlotte Kearns: Sharing Interlochen with the world

From student ambassador to Stanford-bound alumna, Charlotte Kearns (IAA 18-22, IAC 15-17, 20) has a passion for Interlochen that continues to shape her life after graduation.

Charlotte Kearns headshot

In her time at Interlochen Arts Academy, Charlotte Kearns was a standout student who majored in theatre performance and acting. She garnered awards for her work in volunteerism and acted in multiple Academy plays, including Violet, You on the Moors Now, and Matilda. She was also a student ambassador, sharing her experience of Interlochen with prospective students and their families. 

As she joins the ranks of Interlochen alumni, Kearns wants to stay involved with her alma mater. Here, she looks back on fond memories of her time as a student and looks forward to new adventures and continued advocacy.

Why did you decide to attend school at Interlochen Arts Academy?
I finally felt like there was a place where I belonged. At home I was ostracized a bit for being the girl that would skip the school dances to go see a theatre production, or save up her money to buy rehearsal shoes instead of clothes. I just had different values than some of my classmates. [At Interlochen] I felt like I was finally surrounded by people who shared similar interests, people who knew all the words to Hamilton like I did! I was finally at a place where I felt like I belonged.

In your time at Arts Academy, you studied theatre performance and acting. For you, what is the most rewarding aspect of acting?
I came here wanting to be on Broadway. That was my dream. For my first few years here, I really loved the affirmation I got from audiences—the clapping and the applause. I think that I got pulled into the extrinsic reward of being acknowledged by others. But by trying out the other side of the table and working backstage, I realized that the true art is in the work. Somebody once said to me, ‘Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art.’ The attention and the applause are wonderful byproducts. But what's more important is bowing and knowing that you’re proud of what you created. You love to perform, and you love to share these stories. 

How will your artistic and academic education at Interlochen help you in your next chapter of adulthood and college life?
I learned the importance of art for the world. It's so frustrating to see art being cut from programs. In schools and institutions, it's the first to go because they see art as superfluous. I think art is so crucial to understanding our common humanity. We all cry, we all experience moments of elation, and we all experience moments of deep grief. Art can embody that for us. I think that's what drew me to the arts—the understanding that we are all connected. At the end of the day, we’re all humans; stripped of our ideas and our identities and our ethnicities, we all breathe and smell the same air. I think that it's so important to recognize that and use the arts as a way to diffuse polarization.

What is one of your fondest memories from your time at Interlochen?
My freshman year, I went to New York City. I was part of an interdisciplinary collaboration between multiple majors: theatre, visual arts, creative writing, and music. The ability to collaborate between different majors was such an incredible experience. I’d always felt like ‘This is my theatre bubble. I hang out with the theatre kids and I do theatre things. Those are musicians and they do their musician things.’ But I recognized that you can bridge the gap. Here I was, onstage, performing in Brooklyn, New York—reciting a monologue written by a creative writer, in a costume designed by a visual artist, with lighting by a design and production major, and music played by the musicians behind me. It was a wonderful, eye-opening experience for me to realize that I didn't come to Interlochen just to be a theatre major. I came to be an artist.

What is your favorite place on campus?
This is a new favorite place, but I love the waterfront behind Dow. I love going there with my friends to sit on the hammock or the swings by the water. It's beautiful.

What will you miss most about attending Interlochen?
The people. I built some really wonderful connections, and I'm still in touch with a lot of them. I'm just sad that we're never all going to be together at the same place again, because I think that there's something pretty unique about wanting to spend your school year nestled in the middle of nowhere in Michigan. I think that drew me to form really strong emotional connections with many people.

In your time at Arts Academy, you were a Student Ambassador for Interlochen. Why did you choose to take on this role, and how are you continuing to advocate for Interlochen as an alumna?
I wanted to give back to the community that had given me so much. I wanted to serve as an ambassador because there were so many people who were pivotal in my decision to apply to the Academy, and I wanted other people to have a similar experience.

I try to give a very honest opinion of what life was like at Interlochen. My opinion is optimistic because my experience here has been really good. I'm definitely going to continue advocating for Interlochen after I leave. I want to work hard as a student and in my professional career, so that I can give back to Interlochen—whether it be financially, through my time, or in my work. I think that's something I'd be interested in doing in the next 10-15 years.

What does it mean to you to be joining Interlochen’s alumni community?
It means to be surrounded by artists, learners, intellectuals, and people who embrace everything that Interlochen has to offer, while also recognizing the institution’s potential to grow and get better. Being an alumni means keeping tabs on the artistic world and the world around me. It means having the responsibility to communicate the world's changing needs to Interlochen to ensure that it stays relevant, keeps growing, and keeps changing lives.

What are you doing this fall?
I'm very excited to be taking a gap year. I'm going backpacking through India for 80 days from September to November. Then, from January to March, I’ll be in Central America getting TOEFL certified to teach English as a foreign language. I’ll work with kids, teach them English, and increase my Spanish abilities. Then I'll head to South Africa to work on an animal conservation. And then I'm going to get yoga certified in the Bahamas!

You’re currently planning to attend Stanford University next fall. What do you hope to study, and what are your plans upon graduation?
Currently I'm interested in double majoring and getting a bachelor of arts in theater performance as well as a bachelor of science in engineering, computer science, or mathematics. Interlochen championed my academic pursuits as well as my artistic pursuits, and that's something I want to continue. There's a lot of space in the world of technology for creating new ways of integrating the arts. How can we make the arts more accessible to the world? And how can we use the arts to connect polarized communities? I'm interested in being a computer scientist or a lawyer, using my theatrical background to advocate for artistic endeavors in the relevant technology fields.

Why should Interlochen alumni stay involved with Interlochen?
I think it's so important to share feedback and insights. I hope that in 10 years, I can come back to Interlochen to share my experiences. If I have the privilege to travel more in my life, which I hope I can, I think that is something else I’d want to bring back. Interlochen alumni live pretty fabulous lives. Sharing your expertise and your unique, diverse experiences makes Interlochen stronger and better.