Graduation Celebration

Crescendo issue: June 2014
  • Tim Wade, Vice President of Student Affairs, delivers the 2014 Interlochen Arts Academy commencement address.

Graduation is a momentous occasion.

Combine that with the fun and enjoyment that surrounds Interlochen's Festival Week leading up to graduation, and you have an epic conclusion to the students' journey into young adulthood. View some of our favorite photos from the weekend.

"The last week of Interlochen Arts Academy is perhaps my favorite week of the year," says Interlochen's President Jeffrey Kimpton. "Seeing the work of the year brought to the final performances in Festival is a very powerful experience; a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone in our community."

"Graduation itself is, for me, a time of reflection," he continued. "As the seniors file by, I wonder what they will do with their Interlochen education? Do they realize the tools they have been given, and will they know how to create new ones? How will they use their experience to be our future artists, creative leaders and thinkers, and to do good work for good causes in the world? How can we make the Interlochen experience better for the next graduates? Those answers come as graduates from the last few years return to visit and we learn how they are coping with such a rapidly changing world; one of ambiguity and uncertainty, and one full of remarkable opportunities to recraft the arts for new generations. Time, new experiences, and maturity are helping them build on the foundation they developed at Interlochen. They will find clarity amongst the uncertainty, as so many do so very well. After all, they are Interlochen graduates!"

The week's climax was the commencement ceremony, wherein Interlochen's senior class was sent off into the world with words, applause, and an artistic tool-kit that only Interlochen can provide. The commencement address was given by Interlochen's Vice President of Student Affairs, Tim Wade, who will soon retire from Interlochen after more than three decades of service. It was a rare opportunity for Wade to share the wisdom earned through decades of working with young artists and a chance for the Interlochen community to say thank you to someone who served as a leader and mentor to so many.    

It was a stirring and inspirational piece, the echoes of which are certain to reverbate through the minds of our graduating seniors for some time to come. The complete text of Tim Wade's commencement address appears below.

Turn! Turn! Turn!

Members of the Interlochen Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, students, parents, guests and the graduating class of 2014, I am humbled, and honored, to have been asked and to have the opportunity to deliver the commencement address in what will be my final Academy graduation ceremony before I retire later this year.

It is hard for me to believe that some 35 years ago, Interlochen was barely on my radar. Now, it’s difficult to imagine myself, or my family, without having been here. Over half of my life, and the majority of my professional career, have been immersed in the life of this campus. As the old cliché goes, time flies. Indeed it does.

When my wife Vicki and I moved here in August of 1979, we had one daughter who was three years old. While everything about the move at that time in our life felt right, there were also many things about it that were out of our comfort zone – moving to northern Michigan, far away from family, friends and relationships we had established in our previous residence, giving up the security of good teaching jobs, and a comfortable home. Some of our friends and family didn’t understand.

We look back now and smile about what we told ourselves as we deliberated moving, “Hey, we’re young. Our daughter is only three and she won’t be in school for a couple years. We’ll try it for a year or two and if we don’t like it, or it doesn’t work out for some reason, we can leave and go somewhere else without much consequence to our family or our careers.”

Never would we have imagined that we would still be here, having raised not one but two daughters who grew up on this campus – both proud alumnae of the Camp and the Academy, and now married, each with two children of their own - our grandchildren. And who knows, maybe one or more of them could be future Interlochen students as well.

We look back and realize what a blessing it is to have been here this long – living in what is one of the most beautiful places in the country, if not the world, working in the best profession: education, and being a part of this special educational community of Interlochen Center for the Arts. And where else could I have been guaranteed the same beautiful date to Morp for 30 plus years? (Thank you, Vicki, for always saying yes.)

When we arrived in 1979, the Academy was still in its adolescence, and was still considered by some to be the kid sister to what was then still known as the National Music Camp. I worked in what is now the Academic and College Counseling office, as both an academic and personal counselor for the Arts Academy.

The Academy and the Camp operated as separate entities, with separate administrations, under the corporate Interlochen umbrella. It’s hard to imagine today, but the rivalry between the two institutions could be quite strong at times. Early in my first years at Interlochen the director of the Academy at that time, Bruce Galbraith, calculated, and proudly announced that the Academy had reached the point in its relatively young existence to have eclipsed the number of days it had occupied the buildings and grounds on the Interlochen campus compared to the Camp, as if to send the message that the Academy was here to stay and had equal, if not more bragging rights, to the campus! Thankfully that level of rivalry evaporated as the administration and programs were gradually restructured to be year-round.

In the time I have been here, the Academy has grown from 380 students to more than 500 today. I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with three of the Academy’s charter faculty members and five of Interlochen’s seven presidents, as well as the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds, gifted students and most talented faculty, staff, guest artists and fellow administrators one could ever want. After today, I will also have had the pleasure of seeing 6,453 students receive their Interlochen diplomas on this stage, including the two that I was able to present to my daughters, Erin and Amanda. My family and I have made many, many, dear and lifelong friends.

While we have no plans to move away from this area, and I hope to continue to see many of you from time to time, I know that I will greatly miss the energy of this campus and the daily interactions with students and colleagues. I will miss all of you.

While Interlochen has experienced a great deal of change over the past three decades, the best things about Interlochen have not changed, and will not change, because Interlochen has remained true to its mission and, as I was reminded just yesterday by one of our students, it is still all about the people. Today’s students, faculty and staff are as dedicated and passionate about why they are here and what they do today, as they always have been. Parents continue to believe in their children and make sacrifices so their children can benefit from an Interlochen education. And trustees have remained committed in their stewardship over time so that young people will continue to have the opportunity to live, study and thrive in this one-of-a-kind place.

Much of the Interlochen campus remains the same as it was in 1979, but a great deal has also changed over time. Old buildings have come down and new beautiful facilities have gone up. Today, it would be hard to envision this place without the Dendrinos Chapel and Recital Hall, the Frolich Piano and Percussion Building, Phoenix Theatre, Harvey Theatre, the Writing House, DeRoy Center for Film Studies and the DeRoy residence hall, The Bonisteel Library, or the Dow Center for Visual Arts. None of these buildings were here in 1979. And, these are just the facilities used during the Academy year. My list doesn’t include all of the renovations to existing buildings that have taken place, or the changes to our infrastructure - the campus grounds, entrances, and roadways. And technology. Wow, the changes in technology!

New programs and curricula have also been developed and expanded to meet the needs and interests of today’s students, and the increasing collaborative nature of the arts. 

C.S. Lewis once said, “It’s funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.”

I better stop here with reflecting back as I am probably already dangerously close to turning this address into a walk down nostalgia lane and that is not what I want to do, nor do you want to listen to it. However, as I think about the seniors and postgraduates seated on the stage and the variety and number of changes they will experience as they move on throughout their lives, I would like to talk about the nature of change.

It has been said that the one sure thing in life (besides death and taxes) is change. German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, stated that, “Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal.”

Looking back, most people would probably view the majority of change that has taken place over time, as a good thing. However, in the moment, everyone does not necessarily have a positive view of change. Many individuals are often more comfortable when things stay just as they are.

Change can mean having to do something different, something we may not want to do. It can even be scary. Change can mean a loss of something, or someone. It can present what many may view as obstacles. While it does not always feel welcome or comfortable at the time, I am a firm believer that change is a good thing. That is something I have tried to keep in mind whenever I find myself questioning or worrying about changes that may lie ahead.

Something I heard, in one form or another, while growing up is, “Things change, people change, stuff happens, but remember life goes on.” And I would add – “Almost always for the better.”

Change means new challenges and opportunities, and that is what keeps us growing and moving forward. When we embrace and accept change rather than fight it, it stretches and pushes us to new heights … even opens up new doors of possibility that we never might have imagined. Just as organizations have to change or risk atrophy, people must as well, or they become stagnant and do not grow or become all they can be.

Accepting change as a part life means that one never knows what lies ahead, maybe even just around the corner. Life will offer many options along the way, some that we never anticipate or necessarily have any control over, but it is what we chose to do with those options that makes all of the difference.

Columnist, national speaker and bestselling author of several business-focused books, Harvey MacKay, offers advice that speaks to people of all ages and in all professions, about life, the changes we experience, and the people that come our way:

“Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forget about those who don’t. Believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it.”

Earlier this year, on January 27, the world lost one of its great folk music icons. Singer-songwriter Pete Seeger died at the age of 94. For those, who like me, experienced their teenage years in the 1960s, Pete Seeger’s lyrics of peace and social justice were just the tonic that was needed during that turbulent time in our country’s history.

Like many folk singers, the origin of some of his music and lyrics came from traditional sources, and many of his songs were covered by other artists, but Seeger was the inspired musician behind standards of the day like, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "If I Had a Hammer," "We Shall Overcome," and "Turn, Turn, Turn," among dozens of others.

Seeger’s song "Turn, Turn, Turn," sub-titled "To Everything There Is A Season" was written in 1959 and became an international hit in 1965 when the American rock band, The Byrds, covered it.

As many may know, the lyrics in "Turn! Turn! Turn!" are largely an excerpt from the ancient Biblical text found in the Book of Ecclesiastes, and have been attributed to King Solomon. The words have always captivated and moved me, for they convey real wisdom about the ups and downs in life, and remind us that there is a time and place for everything. Knowing that those words date back to approximately 935 B.C. make the message even more powerful.

If not from the Bible, thanks to Pete Seeger almost everyone is familiar with the following words, or some version of them. I won’t read the entire text but in part in goes like this…

“To everything, there is a season,
And a time to every purpose under the heaven
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to break down, and a time to build up; 
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to gain, and a time to lose; 
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to tear, and a time to mend;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace”

Seeger was inspired to take these ancient words, rearrange some of the verse (so it rhymed better), and he added six words of his own, among them – the title lyric of Turn, Turn, Turn that is repeated throughout the song. Seeger’s addition of “turn, turn, turn” emphasizes the natural cycles in life that continue to be as true today as they were in ancient times. Seasons come and go without fail and have done so throughout the ages. Life is a series of beginnings and endings; change is part of a natural life cycle.

The lines are open to a myriad of interpretations, but this is what Pete Seeger himself had to say in an interview when asked about it just few years before his death:

“What a poem that is – it is something worth considering. The world is full of opposites, inter-tangled – the good and the bad tangling up all the time. Nobody knows. God only knows. And the words mean different things at different times. The agricultural revolution took thousands of years. The industrial revolution took hundreds of years. And now the information revolution is only taking decades. And if we use it, and use the brains God gave us, who knows what miracles may happen.”

Laozi, the ancient Chinese philosopher and poet had this to say about change, “Life is a series of spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

As I think about what lies ahead for the class of 2014, and for me as I enter a new phase in my life, I am excited for what the future holds and the changes and transformations that lie ahead for all of us. It is important to keep in mind that there is indeed, a time for everything.

We will all experience our own mixture of elation and sadness as we move from the security of what we have known for so long toward a new and promising, yet largely unknown, future. But then, I think of the words from Judith Minty, Michigan writer and poet, and frequent guest at Interlochen from her work "Letters to My Daughters," where she writes: “I give you this to take with you: Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can begin again, with poor joy in the uprooting.”

As you… as we…uproot and begin again, I want to thank Interlochen, all of you here today, and all of those past and present - students, faculty, staff, administration and board members - who have contributed to make this place, and the experiences we have shared, all possible.

There will forever be a large part of me – who I am and what I am yet to become – that is a result of my Interlochen experience and those who I have had the privilege of knowing and working with during my time here. I believe that to be true for our graduates as well.

None of us are the same person we were when we first walked onto this campus. We are always a sum total of our experiences and the people we have come to know, and have worked with, over these past months and years; ever evolving, ever changing.

One of the miracles, and blessings of life, is that as we move through time, its seasons, and the various chapters of our lives, we take with us a part of where we have been, and we leave behind part of who we were. We are changed because of those we have known and others are changed for having known us.

So, fellow graduates, as we venture from the security of this campus, nestled between two beautiful lakes in the woods of northern Michigan, into a future that will be filled with life’s ups and downs, twists and turns, beginnings and endings, unknown changes, and opportunities that are yet to come our way, I close with these words of wisdom, from one of my favorite writers, American humorist, essayist and novelist, Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did. So throw away the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor; catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Seniors and postgraduates … it’s your time … it’s your turn.

Congratulations! Godspeed and much happiness!

Thank you.