On Interlochen’s campus, the emotional range of campers was as diverse as the many states and nations they hailed from—apprehension, anxiety, anticipation. But by First Gathering on Sunday night, they were unified in dress, in passion and in exuberance. In that moment of singing, cheering and sock-waving, the fears of over a thousand young artists melted away in the face of the promise of the coming summer at Interlochen Arts Camp.
By 8:30 on Saturday morning, around 20 High School Girls campers waited to check in outside of the Fine Arts building. Some were among the 79 campers who had remained after the one-week Institutes that concluded Thursday night; others were newcomers whose excitement would not wait for a later check-in time.
One such early arrival was Leah Jorgenson, a high school French Horn major from Jacobis, Pa. In her second summer at Interlochen, Jorgenson is looking forward to development of both musicianship and friendship.
“I go to a huge high school,” Jorgenson said. “Last summer, I met a girl who goes to my high school that I had never met before. We’re now best friends.”
For Jorgenson, friendship with other artists is important to her own artistic development. “We learn off of each other,” she said. “Sometimes at home you stay the same. The people here at Interlochen push you so far. You’re around a lot of people who are really talented but are really humble.”
Across the High School Girls division, Hawaii native and first-time camper Malia Becker was putting the finishing touches on her bunk. The young guitarist was nervous about her first camp experience—and being so far from home—but kept a positive outlook.
“I’m coming here nervous, but everyone feels the same way,” she said. “Creativity comes from getting outside your comfort zone.”
The Interlochen atmosphere, however, has already begun to alleviate Becker’s anxiety. “Everyone here is super happy, welcoming, and friendly,” she said.
High School Boys camper Hunter Martin echoed Becker’s assessment of the Interlochen welcome. “The counselors are so nice and welcoming,” he said. “I played basketball with some of them within my first five minutes.”
Martin hails from Fort Worth, Texas, where he is a senior at a fine arts high school. Although Martin is familiar with the arts school experience, he says Interlochen is special. “It’s not a normal fine arts school,” he said.
One of Martin’s fellow High School Boys campers, Redd Ingram, described his last summer at Interlochen as the “best six weeks of my life.” Ingram is a double bassist from Columbus, Ohio, and is eager for his second summer at Interlochen.
“What didn’t make me want to come back?” he said with a laugh. “Me as a bassist last May and me as a bassist last August were completely different. Interlochen is the best place for young musicians to go to get better.”
Getting better is Ingram’s goal for the summer, and it is that goal that helps his parents say goodbye to their son for six weeks. “My parents know why I’m here,” Ingram said. “They know that Interlochen is a good place for me.”
Ron and Erin Franczyk also believe that Interlochen is a good place for their children. After glowing reports from older daughter Emma, the Franczyks are back at Interlochen for a second summer and with a second child: Intermediate creative writing major Sarah.
Erin said she felt safe leaving their children at Interlochen from the moment they arrived last year. “Interlochen has been doing this for a very long time,” she said. “We weren’t apprehensive once we got here. When we saw how organized and helpful everyone was, our apprehensions went away.”
Ron Franczyk says part of their decision to return to Interlochen was the evidence of the camp’s transformational power in their older daughter. “Last summer, Emma came home more independent and helpful,” he said. “At Interlochen, there’s a lot of independence, creativity and individuality that we don’t see at other schools.”
Ron Franczyk acknowledges, however, that Interlochen isn’t all work. “It’s a bunch of artists in the woods with an ice cream shop,” he said with a chuckle.
That ice cream shop is a staple of Interlochen’s campus—a fact that President Jeff Kimpton pointed out within the first few minutes of First Gathering. From the 32,000 ice cream cones that will be served this summer to the photograph of composer Aaron Copland outside the Melody Freeze, ice cream is almost as much a part of the Interlochen tradition as music and dance.
All levity aside, the arts are still and always will be the reason that Interlochen Arts Camp exists. “The dream of Interlochen has come full circle,” Kimpton said to the students at First Gathering. “We’re here for many reasons, but primarily we’re here for your development as artists.”
This summer, as always, Interlochen moves forward while looking back at its history of excellence. “As you walk around campus this summer, think about the artists who came before you,” said Vice President of Education Programs Ted Farraday.
One artist in particular, Aaron Copland, will be commemorated in this 88th season of camp. Farraday reminded campers that Copland planned his first opera before he reached an age in the double digits. “It’s never too early to start working on your opera,” Farraday said.
Following a performance from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Dean of Students Jennifer Wesling took the stage. “I have the best job,” she shouted above the low roar of excitement. “I get to introduce you!” For the next few minutes, choruses of “Yee-haw!” identified students from all divisions, arts, states and nations.
The evening wrapped up with several repetitions of Interlochen’s perennial camp song, Sound the Call, led by Director of Choirs John Bragle. The piano accompaniment was nearly drowned out by 1,440 voices, 2,880 clapping hands and several pairs of scarlet socks swinging through the evening air. Anywhere else, knee-high socks are an antiquated fashion statement; at Interlochen, they are another part of a tradition 88 years in the making.
Even high school students, eager to be “hip,” are willing to bend fashion rules for Interlochen. “It’s worth the knee-high socks!” said Jorgenson with a grin.