In the summers of 1979 and 1981, more years ago than I can wrap my mind around, I worked as Staff Accompanist at the prestigious National Music Camp in
Affectionately known simply as Interlochen,
it changed my life. Interlochen, Michigan
Twenty-fours years old and reeling from a divorce, I needed a fresh start. I was a sheltered Southern Baptist girl with a long list of do’s and don’ts who had rarely left her home state of Texas, all of which made me question who I was and what I was doing.
Well, everyone was not Baptist at Interlochen; in fact many were not even Christian. And yes, that was a shock. I quickly made friends with other staff and faculty members and we set about solving the world’s problems in addition to going out for beer and polka-dancing. I heard the f-word from one of these friends…and it was ok. Only a week or two into the summer session I realized with a start that non-Christians can be good people, too…does my naiveté shock you?
This was the time I first talked to a gay man about life in a heterosexual world, what it’s like to tell your parents, how one has to hide it…remember, this is 1979, decades from where we are now. I ate my first-ever bagel at the canteen, a Lender’s frozen one, no less, and I loved it.
More than this eye-opening, though, Interlochen was about discovering myself as an artist and committing to making music as my life’s work and passion. I played the piano all day and every evening there, just about working my fingers to the bone. Sometimes boring, sometimes incredibly challenging. But I found I could do it, and do it well. And it was the life I wanted.
I am writing about this now because last week I was there, visiting for the first time in thirty-two years. It is hard to describe the feeling that came over me when I stepped onto the campus. The ladies at the information booth were so excited at this alumni’s visit and peppered me with questions…but I only wanted to be quiet, and to hear the sounds around me. One hears music everywhere: fingers flying in the Schumann piano concerto coming from a stone practice hut, kids practicing their ‘cellos outdoors, a junior choir doing vocal warm-ups with the doors of the studio thrown wide-open. As we approached the impressive open air auditorium, Kresge, I fought back tears upon hearing the orchestra rehearsing…all of a sudden I was 24 again.
So many memories, so much time passed…
Thank you, Interlochen, for showing me a new world.