From Green Lake to Two Rivers, Interlochen Continues to Inspire Across the Miles

Crescendo issue: December 2013

It’s 3,500 miles from Interlochen, Michigan, to Gina Tabachki’s (IAC/NMC 73-74, IAA 75-79, IAC/NMC St 82-83, ICA St 84-86) farm in Two Rivers, Alaska, but Interlochen continues to shape this Camp and Academy alumna’s life.

After returning to campus for the 50th anniversary celebration of Interlochen Arts Academy last year, Gina--already an annual donor to the Interlochen Fund--decided to increase her support and make a major financial commitment to Interlochen.

Gina’s commitment to giving back started right after graduation, when she contributed $100 of her graduation gift money to join what was then called the Interlochen Arts Academy Alumni Association. She learned this practice from her parents who always gave money to organizations they believed in, despite their modest means. Her father, a retired Detroit city bus driver who worked part-time driving a school bus after they moved to Gaylord, Michigan, was reluctant to apply for financial assistance during Gina’s time at the Academy. To help pay Gina’s tuition, her mother took a school job. Finally, Gina’s voice teacher encouraged her parents to apply, and Gina received a scholarship for her final two years.

“It was my parents’ own charity toward others and belief in paying one’s own way that formed the foundation upon which I base my philanthropy,” Gina said. Giving back is one way to honor her parents’ sacrifice as well as repay Interlochen for the financial assistance she received.  

Gina chose to designate her gift this year to the Howard Hintze Teaching Endowment, which provides additional support for the Academy liberal arts faculty to pursue special projects and continuing education. Gina’s decision to contribute to this fund honors not only Howard Hintze (IAA Fac 66-04, IAC/NMC St 80-84, 86-94, 96-00, 01-04), the retired Academy English teacher for whom the fund is named, but also all the instructors who inspire academic excellence at Interlochen. “I want to boost the academic faculty’s stature and morale,” Gina explained. “Unlike many of my classmates, I’m not an artist. I gained admittance to some of the best schools in the nation due to the academic instruction I received at Interlochen.”

A second-generation American, Gina was the first person in her family to earn a college degree. “In many ways I epitomize the American dream that with hard work and education one can leap the socio-economic hurdle,” she said, further explaining Interlochen’s impact. The years have only reinforced Interlochen’s importance. “I understand more fully now that the lessons the faculty were putting in motion continue to show themselves later,” Gina said, “things like a passion for learning, critical thinking and how to write.”

Gina has had opportunities to put those lessons to use in some unusual environments since graduating from the Academy in 1979. After graduating from Northwestern University and Washington University School of Law, she moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, and spent a decade working as an attorney. Now she’s in teacher mode herself, homeschooling her two children on a 200-acre farm where she and her partner, musher Sonny Lindner, raise an assortment of animals, grow food, and breed and train sled dogs.

And yet, in this remote life, she continues to feel that strong connection to her Interlochen foundation. Calling herself a “creative thinker,” Gina explained, “Interlochen is a combination of the arts and creativity springing from the natural environment. Living in this great land and homeschooling my children reflects how influential Interlochen was in my life and how right Interlochen was for me.” Thanks to Gina’s generous support, Interlochen will continue to help young artists--and young scholars--grow into creative thinkers for life.