From the ages of nine through 15, I spent my summers in the idyllic scenery of Northern Michigan at Interlochen Arts Camp. I wore a uniform, attended classes and saw world-class performances on a semi-weekly basis. For some, that may not sound like camp. But for me, it was paradise.
About this time each year, I feel a pang of nostalgia for the summers I spent in those woods, nestled between two lakes. Instead of splashing in the water or shooting arrows, musicians practiced on the beach, artists sketched the morning sunrise and dancers stretched in studios overlooking the water. My summers at Interlochen, spent in four- to eight-week blocks, were some of the most creative, meaningful and cherished days of my life.
When I find myself becoming a wistful sap, I just remind myself of all the ways Interlochen is still with me. Though I’m no longer a budding sculptor/bassoonist/actor/painter/ballerina, I’m still always going to be a creative person. Here are some ways that summer camp still influences me:
When I was first sent to Interlochen, it was 1996 and Hanson’s “Mmmbop” was definitively THE song of the summer. I was in Cabin #2, one of the youngest cabins on the entire camp. I. Was. Terrified.
There’s a lot of tough love at IAC (Interlochen Arts Camp), and we were immediately immersed in a structured regimen of classes, ceremonial procedures and songs that I didn’t know any of the words to. Leaping into the unknown is a good (and quick) lesson in adapting, and a skill I frequently find myself relying on in the fast-paced creative world of my adulthood.
We wore uniforms, woke up to reveille and had a rotating chore list each morning. This may not resemble the summer camp of our Nickelodeon-influenced youth, but to me it was an important part of becoming a responsible adult.
Our orchestra manager was famous for saying, “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late and to be late is unacceptable!” I often hear his voice in the back of my head when it comes to being punctual, as well as when it comes to everyday diligence.
We work on tight deadlines and being held accountable for our part in the process is what makes our team operate smoothly. Having that kind of discipline and respect for other people’s schedules engrained in me at a young age makes me a better team member.
3. Confronting Challenges
As I got older, my summers at Interlochen became more competitive. At the beginning of the week, each section in my orchestra underwent a grueling procedure called Challenges. We would play an excerpt and vote on who played it best, ultimately trying to dethrone first chair. I never won a challenge.
I never won because I didn’t practice enough and I didn’t want it enough. Truth be told, by the time I was in high school, I just wanted to be at Interlochen, and playing an instrument (ahem, bassoon) with limited competition was a sure-fire way to get in, even if I sat in last chair.
At work, we confront all sorts of challenges—outside competitors, our own concepts backfiring and sometimes even each other. We “win” those challenges by being prepared, learning from our mistakes and fighting like hell to succeed.
4. Keep in Touch
Interlochen gave me access to a unique niche of kids who would become some my closest friends as an adult. Where else do you find like-minded creatives at such a young age? I moved a lot growing up and my one constant was my summers at Interlochen and the friends I accumulated there.
One friend I met at Interlochen at age 10, ended up being my best friend in Chicago when I moved here in middle school. We ended up going to high school together and are going on 17 years of BFFdom. The guy I had a crush on when I was 13 ended up being my roommate for two years (just roommates—trust me) and my buddy in music theory class became my buddy in Disney trivia and college basketball. These are lifelong friends, who though I don’t get to see all the time, I always know will be there for me.
Maintaining relationships is an important part of what we do at BatesMeron. We often restart projects with clients who’ve moved or take a hiatus, and thanks to good relationship building, we can pick right up where we left off. In addition to that, I always try to remember things about the people I work with so we can connect on a personal level that goes far beyond deadlines, facts and figures.
I suppose it seems obvious that going to a creative camp would make me a better creative person, but when I really think about it—going to arts camp made me a better person. Though my artistic hobbies have subsided, I will forever sound the call to dear old Interlochen.
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