Interlochen Center for the Arts – Not So Secret Obsession

Camp starts today.  The last time I was at Interlochen, I walked to the dance building and looked out on the lake.  Even though no one was there, I took off my shoes and left them at the front door.  I remembered the scared, lost, dumb kid that first stepped onto the sandy ground.  I thought about the friends I made each year I was there and how they grew in numbers and strength.  I remembered Erik.  Like so many people before and after me, Interlochen changed my life and saved my life.

My advice to everyone there right now is to jump in with both feet, let the air rush beneath them, trust.  It will change your life if you are open to it.  And you will have friends for life if you want.

Interlochen Center for the Arts is a privately owned, 1,200 acre (5 km²) arts education institution in Interlochen, Michigan, roughly 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Traverse City. Interlochen draws young people from around the world to participate in intensive academics with additional study of music, theater, dance, visual art, creative writing, motion picture arts, and a brand new program of comparative arts. Interlochen Center for the Arts is the umbrella organization for Interlochen Arts Camp (formerly the National Music Camp, founded 1928), Interlochen Arts Academy high school (founded 1962), Interlochen Public Radio (founded 1963), Interlochen College of Creative Arts (founded 2004), and the “Interlochen Presents” performing arts series.

Interlochen Arts Camp (formerly the National Music Camp) is an annual summer camp for approximately 2,500 students ages 8 to 18. It was founded in 1928 by the late Dr. Joseph E. Maddy as the National High School Orchestra Camp. Today, students participate in music, theatre, dance, visual arts, creative writing, or motion picture arts. Camp admission is competitive, and auditions are required in most cases. Programs range in length from one to six weeks, and participants are divided into three divisions: Junior (grades 3-6), Intermediate (grades 6-9), and High School (grades 9-12). As another alternative, students may apply to one-week advanced institute programs that take place the week prior to the typical summer camp season; within the past few years, there have been institutes for oboe, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, and percussion. The Interlochen All-State program, which formerly consisted of two-week band, orchestra, and choir programs for Michigan high school students, was dropped in 2009.

Interlochen Theme

The Interlochen Theme, an excerpt from Howard Hanson’s Symphony No. 2, is played at the conclusion of every Interlochen Arts Camp concert. It is conducted by the concertmaster for orchestra performances and by the first chair oboe player for band concerts. In recent years it has been accepted for any member of the band to conduct the theme during the summer camp. At the end of the Interlochen Theme, audience members are requested not to applaud and to depart in quiet reflection.

The Interlochen Arts Academy was founded in 1962 as an independent boarding school dedicated to the arts. As of 2007, it has 300 faculty and staff, and roughly 475 students. While more than half the students major in music performance, IAA also offers majors in comparative arts, creative writing, dance, theatre (performance; design and production), motion picture arts, and visual arts. Beginning with the 2005 school year, IAA (along with Interlochen Arts Camp) established a major in motion picture arts, and beginning in 2011 began offering comparative arts. The vast majority of students at Interlochen Arts Academy are boarding students, including many international students; some day students who live in the vicinity also attend. Interlochen Arts Academy has also been noted for its academic rigor, as IAA expects students to excel in the classroom as well as artistically. Upon graduation, most IAA graduates continue to universities or conservatories for further study in the arts or academics. Conservatories that often admit Interlochen students include Juilliard, Eastman, Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM), School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Curtis, New England Conservatory, Oberlin, Manhattan School of Music, Boston Conservatory, Peabody, and CalArts.

Interlochen Presents

Interlochen Presents has a summer festival running from June through August (schedule announced in April) and a performing arts series from September through May coinciding with the Academy school year (schedule announced in August). It features concerts, plays, art exhibits, readings, film screenings and dance productions presented by students, faculty, and staff, as well as both well-known and obscure guest artists. Interlochen Presents events are held in numerous venues around campus. The list of recent guest artists includes Steely Dan, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Joshua Bell, Jason Mraz, Bonnie Raitt, Olga Kern, Sara Bareilles, Dierks Bentley, Norah Jones, Martha Graham Dance Company, Ra Ra Riot, Bob Dylan, Jewel, Carol Jantsch, Josh Groban, Tiempo Libre, Paula Poundstone, Nathan Gunn, Chris Thile, and Bela Fleck. Interlochen Presents and Interlochen Public Radio serve as the primary channels by which Interlochen Center for the Arts connects with the northern Michigan region.

See current concerts and events at


There are nearly 70,000 alumni of Interlochen Arts Camp and Interlochen Arts Academy living all over the world. Many of them have achieved fame for their artistic abilities or because of other achievements; some of their names are listed below.

Rachel Carns
Chip Davis
Josh Groban
Christie Hefner
Felicity Huffman
Tom Hulce
Linda Hunt
Norah Jones
Jewel Kilcher
Dermot Mulroney
Jessye Norman
Rain Pryor
Mike Wallace
Rufus Wainwright
Rumer Willis
Peter Yarrow
Sean Young

See more at

Here are some of the photos that I have found on my computer from Interlochen:

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