More Than a Bystander

Crescendo issue: November 2013
  • (From left to right) Robert Anderson with his friend, Lauran Brown Gilbreath, Emily Wangler (Camp Scholarship recipient), and Steve Gilbreath

When Robert Anderson (UM 65-66, ICCA 05-13) planned to visit Interlochen for a week in 2001, he hadn’t been on campus in more than thirty years. He was so moved by what he found that he canceled his return trip home and stayed for the rest of the summer. Since then he has spent every summer in Michigan and has become a familiar face on campus.

“I wanted to be a part of this again,” Robert says, “as opposed to a just a bystander.”

Robert certainly hasn’t been a bystander. For the past nine years, he has played clarinet as part of the Interlochen College of Creative Arts Adult Band Camp. And since 2001, he has become a committed donor, establishing a named scholarship in honor of his friend Lauran Brown Gilbreath (IAC/NMC 62; UW 63, 65; ICCA 08) and naming Interlochen as a beneficiary in his estate plan.

“When I grew up, donating wasn’t even a thought in my mind,” Robert admits. “But I have money to donate now, and Interlochen is where it’s going to go.”

The road back to Interlochen wasn’t an easy one for Robert: it actually began when he had a stroke in 1994, which left him struggling to speak. Other health issues followed, and he wasn’t able to continue his 25-year career with U.S. Postal Service. For several years, he worked to regain his health and his speech.

Going through a health crisis “rearranges your focus,” Robert says, and once he was on the road to recovery, he decided it was time to revisit the place that had meant so much to him as a young man.

Robert first came to Interlochen from the University of South Carolina in 1965. For the clarinetist who had spent most of his life in a small southern town, Interlochen was a culture shock, full of interesting people from all over the world. He remembers the day he ran into composer Dmitri Kabalevsky, who appeared to be lost and in a hurry. “He grabbed me and said, ‘Take me,’” Robert recalls, and so the clarinetist from South Carolina became the tour guide for the famous Russian composer. It was one of those “only at Interlochen” moments.

Robert graduated from the University of South Carolina and pursued graduate studies at the University of Michigan and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. After a stint as a public school music teacher, Robert settled into his career with the U.S. Postal Service back home in Newberry, South Carolina, where he still lives when he’s not in Michigan.

Robert says that giving back to Interlochen has been very fulfilling. He’s especially happy that his planned gift is designated for the endowment—the essential foundation that ensures Interlochen’s legacy, he points out. Robert’s legacy will be intertwined with Interlochen’s through his planned gift, and thanks to his commitment to being more than a bystander he leaves Interlochen’s foundation even stronger.