From the Archives with Byron Hanson: April 2014

Crescendo issue: April 2014

Interlochen Publicity back in the Print Age

We’ve mentioned before that patrons arriving for the first concerts at the Interlochen Bowl were handed a 32-page program booklet.  

Inside were national and local advertisements, the history of the National High School Orchestra, the programs for the first afternoon and evening concerts, program notes, and a lot more information than they could even scan before the music started. The expectation was that the audience would read this information at home and share it with their friends in conversation or by mail -- many years before the days of email and tweets! Another way to get the word out in the 1930s was through articles and advertisements in the wide variety of weekly or monthly magazines, and the newsreels that movie theaters ran in the days before television.

We were fortunate to be a novelty in those times - newspapers and magazines eagerly accepted stories written by our staff or sent their own writers and photographers to experience the Camp first-hand. The first such article to appear in a national periodical - The Music Camp at Wah-Be-Ka-Ness - was written by Earl Chapin May [1873-1960] and appeared in the July, 1929 issue of  “The Country Gentleman.” The Christian Science Monitor carried an extensive article in August, 1938, and through the years we have collected hundreds of newspaper items from far and wide, along with a flood of articles in music and art periodicals.

The August 31, 1940 issue of Saturday Evening Post featured a multi-page article written by Dr. Maddy, “Music takes to the woods,” with extensive “Natural-Color photos.” The Post was one of America’s most popular weeklies and millions of readers enjoyed its timely articles, fiction by seasoned authors and the classic cover art by Norman Rockwood. Joe Maddy’s article rubs shoulders with a children’s piece in the same issue by J. P. Marquand, author of the “Mr.  Moto” stories and recipient of a Pulitzer prize in 1938.

The opening years of the Academy produced new waves of interest and, on January 5, 1968, we landed a twelve-page article in LIFE. Despite the fact that the cover photo was of Katherine Hepburn, and the top headline was “the MOB,” their articles combined were only two pages more than ours alone, and the price at the newstand was only 35 cents!

One final example comes from none other than Seventeen, which developed a novel idea for their January, 1971 issue. In “Teens on their way talk to five who have made it” they paired five high school students from across the country with five authorities in their corresponding fields, arranged for them to spend a day together, and wrote up the experiences that resulted. One of our graduating seniors, violinist Michelle Makarski, enjoyed a day at Tanglewood with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and met Leonard Bernstein as well. The other mentors were anthropologist Margaret Mead, futurist Paul Ehrlich, television personality Barbara Walters and Kenneth Gibson, mayor of Trenton, New Jersey.

Interlochen and the White House; 1930-2009

Seeing the President and the Pope together in the news recently prompts me to offer a chronology of our connections with U.S. presidents that began in our earliest days. The first was in April of 1930 when Dr. Maddy brought the National High School Orchestra to Washington for a concert and managed to get President Hoover into some photographs on the steps of the old State, Navy and War Building - not the Capitol as some captions have stated. The next document we have is a letter that President Eisenhower wrote at his Gettysburg farm in 1956 thanking Dr. Maddy and the campers for a recording we sent him.

Certainly the most memorable event occurred six years later in August 1962 when the Camp orchestra and dancers performed on the south lawn of the White House. President Kennedy arrived by helicopter just in time to introduce the concert and meet some of the young performers before heading to his office. It’s almost hard to believe these days, but the entire Interlochen entourage was invited to sit on the floor and eat their box lunches in the ornate East Room of the White House.

President Gerald R. Ford became the only president to visit our campus when he and Betty Ford visited Camp in 1976. At the end of a concert in his honor, the President offered his thanks for the opportunity to hear music he greatly enjoyed, and urged everyone to live up to the motto on the stage wall in the quest for world peace.

President Jimmy Carter sent a congratulatory letter observing the 50th season of Camp, but fifteen years later he would greet some of us in an especially warm personal way. The occasion came when the Academy orchestra was invited to perform for the annual Ronald McDonald Childrens Charities fund-raising banquet in Chicago. Each year McDonalds honored outstanding humanitarians at the conclusion of this dinner, one from their thousands of franchise owners and one from the outside world; that year they honored the former president for his work with Habitat for Humanity. Just as the orchestra was getting seated for the gala event, we were startled to see the former president jump to his feet and approach the podium. In his soft voice he explained that since he’d be whisked away when things were over, he wanted to thank us even before we’d played a note. He asked what we were going to play, and when I mentioned the Intermezzo from “Cavalleria rusticana,” he said “ohhhh, that’s one of my favorites.”

Our only brush with George H. W. Bush came in 1981 when he was Vice-President to Ronald Reagan and came to Detroit to speak on the President’s behalf at a dinner Interlochen organized to honor Michigan’s Governor William and Helen Milliken for their support of the arts in our state.

In 2006 Mr. Kimpton was invited to the White House to accept the National Medal of Art Award for Interlochen from President George W. Bush. Our only connection to President Obama thus far requires a bit of a stretch: for his 2009 inauguration, Camp and Academy alumnus Anthony McGill joined frequent guests Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Gabriela Montinaro in the performance of music commissioned for the occasion, John Williams’ “Air and Simple Gifts.”