From Interlochen to Juilliard and Beyond

Crescendo issue: February 2014
“Interlochen reinvents itself each year to new students, new classes, new majors, new collaborations,” says Austin Joseph Reynolds. “But one thing stays the same amongst all the changes between the lakes, it is a wonderful home to talented people.”

Both Reynolds and Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy, majoring in dance. They were part of a group of dancers accepted to The Juilliard School.

Recently, they sat down with Crescendo to give a quick view into their world as it is now and talked a bit about how Interlochen helped shape that world.

“It took roughly four years to begin the process of finding myself,” says Reynolds. “Moment by moment, among my incredibly influential peers and faculty and as I walked across Kresge in the spring, I felt as if I was beginning to find myself among the many, so that someday I could be the difference in the world as just ‘one.’ Interlochen was an opportunity that I took for granted once, and never will again, because the lessons I learned there were pivotal to the beginning of my journey.”

“My sense of self-motivation blossomed out of my time at Interlochen,” Reynolds continued. “Now in a conservatory setting where I get to focus almost solely on my dancing, it can be the most rewarding and the most destructive thing, but because of Interlochen I feel like I have a better perspective to foresee how the artistic process comes full circle.”

“Interlochen will always be with me, wherever I go in life,” said Guillemot-Rodgerson. “The friends and memories are permanent, and, after leaving, there are not many places in the world that you can go without knowing someone who has attended. Aside from an incredible academic education and an extremely strong dance experience, Interlochen challenged me to think and value myself as an important intellectual with something to bring forth to the world, realize why art is important to me while inspiring me to show people that art should matter to everyone, and to pursue endeavors relentlessly, even if something might lie outside of my own conceivable limits. The experience is completely one of a kind, and though you may leave it, Interlochen never leaves you.”

These days, the two dancers walk the halls of Juilliard, wherein art is life. But, that concept certainly isn’t new to them.

“My Interlochen schedule has really prepared me for the intense schedule that I face at Juilliard,” Guillemot-Rodgerson says. “I begin at nine in the morning with an academic class, we then go on to dance until about seven followed by night-time rehearsals for different student directed projects. The format is very similar and I often find myself finally figuring out different concepts that were given to me by my Interlochen teachers. The physical and mental stamina required for the program is huge and without the self-discipline, knowledge and strategies for taking care of myself that I learned at Interlochen I don’t know where I would be.”

“At The Juilliard School each class has roughly 24 dancers, 12 men and 12 women from all across the world, and we study dance all day long,” adds Reynolds. “We take ballet and modern every day, along with classes on performing, composition, music theory, ballroom, dance history, partnering etc. with rehearsals on top of that. Most nights, I also do work-study to help put money toward my tuition.”

“In my senior year at Interlochen the director of dance, Cameron Basden, said to me ‘We should get you a bed here’ because I was always in the dance building,” Reynolds continued. “Not much has changed from last year. Juilliard is rigorous and, like at Interlochen, there is always more work than time. I feel as though there has hardly been a second to spare, but I am 100 percent certain that I do not want to be spending my life any other way.”

For those dancers, or other artists, just beginning their Interlochen experience, they have a simple directive.

“Just take the leap,” says Guillemot-Rodgerson. “Interlochen is a beautiful place, everyone there is so caring and accepting, and you will be in for the time of your life. Whether camp or academy, the friends you make will stick with you forever.”

“Interlochen is an oasis of artistic breath where you can make mistakes and begin your plunge into the life of being an artist,” concluded Reynolds.