Interlochen Arts Academy: A Century at the Arts Education Podium

Interlochen Arts Academy
Interlochen Arts Academy

Interlochen has been carrying the emblem of art-based education in the United States since 1928. With its rich history and long heritage in the art field, ever since its inception.

Academy took a step further by becoming the first arts-based boarding school in the United States. This facility provided a year-round training ground for promising young artists, and the path to the future success of the institute was constructed.

Heritage of Almost a Century

Since 1928, Interlochen Center for the Arts has offered an immersive arts experience that fosters a sense of closeness discovered only through a deep, shared appreciation. Generations of artists and art enthusiasts have experienced the special and intangible magic that transpires on Interlochen’s beautiful campus, nestled between two pristine lakes and surrounded by quiet pines.

In 1962, Interlochen Arts Academy opened its doors as the nation’s first independent boarding school in the arts. Interlochen Arts Academy invites students from grades 9-12 and postgraduates for once-in-a-lifetime arts education programs designed to hone their skills and nurture their humanity. The depth and breadth of its offerings are unmatched. The Interlochen Arts Academy transcends backgrounds and beliefs, borders and barriers. At Interlochen, everyone is united through the universal language of the arts.

Fostering Art Culture

Interlochen Center for the Arts is the destination for young artists, where they transform passion and potential into purpose.

The mission of Interlochen is to engage and inspire people worldwide through excellence in educational, artistic, and cultural programs, enhancing the quality of life through the universal language of the arts.

The five core values of this academy are—‘Inspiring, Nurturing, Transformative, Enlightening, and Enduring.’ These values support their core purpose of igniting a lifelong passion for the arts.

Founder’s Resilience

The Founder of Interlochen, Joseph Maddy, was a visionary educator with a deep passion for training young musicians. Throughout the institution’s history, Maddy advocated for the school and its students and worked tirelessly to expand his successful summer camp into a multifaceted artistic haven. Maddy’s relentless fundraising and networking efforts sustained the institution through challenging financial seasons, enabled its growth, and raised its profile.

Making Arts Education Mainstream in the US

Interlochen Arts Academy has made significant efforts to uplift art education in the United States. As the first arts-focused boarding high school in the United States, Interlochen Arts Academy established the model for integrated artistic and academic study. Here, students balance college-preparatory academics with conservatory-calibre artistic training and a social-emotional learning program, The Interlochen 5. This one of-a-kind curriculum cultivates five core capacities: mindfulness, wellness, and resilience; creative; interdisciplinary perspective and collaboration; global and cultural perspective; and community and citizen artistry.

Battle Against the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic was a significant challenge for the academy, as many of the art forms practiced at Interlochen require face-to-face interaction.

Early in the pandemic, the school closed its campus and pivoted to online learning. The faculty devised creative ways of teaching the arts over digital interfaces, such as transforming theatre productions into audio dramas, holding private lessons via Zoom, and utilizing household products as visual arts materials.

In the fall of 2020, the Academy reopened, thanks to rigorous health and safety protocols. All students, faculty, and staff received regular COVID testing and participated in daily health screenings and temperature checks.

Academic instructors reduced the number of students in their classes and moved sessions outside. Arts instructors implemented a variety of creative solutions, such as no-contact dance partnering, outdoor performance venues, smaller ensembles/theatre casts, and more.

As a result of these precautions, the Academy maintained rates of community transmission. It was able to continue in-person operations until all students, faculty, and staff were able to be vaccinated.

Student Engagement through Extracurricular Activities

The Academy hosts a variety of school-sponsored recreational activities. Students enjoy regular dances and mixers, including Interlochen’s version of prom, MORP. Other activities include holiday celebrations, open mic events, bonfires, game tournaments, ski trips, private film screenings at local cinemas, and visits to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Students have access to the Dennison Center, a state-of-the-art recreation hub that features a gymnasium, weight room, fitness studio, and rock wall. The Academy has five competitive sports teams and several intramural sports leagues.

The Academy also has more than 30 student-led clubs, which include art-based groups, academic clubs, affinity groups, and more.

Nurturing Students for Global Exposure

The Academy’s student body is a vibrant multicultural community in which international and intercultural friendship is nurtured. Led by the Academy’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Interlochen Arts Academy hosts on-campus activities to celebrate the diverse cultures represented on the campus.

Internationally recognized guest artists frequently visit campus to present master classes, readings, Q&A sessions, and performances. Recent guests include Irish lautist Sir James Galway; Romanian conductor Cristian Mcelaru; Cuban pianist Aldo Gavilán; and Japanese choreographer Yoshito Sakuraba.

Beyond campus, Academy students share their art through touring opportunities. Recent destinations include David Geffen Hall and National Sawdust in New York City; the New World Center in Miami, Florida; and Lincoln Hall in Chicago, Illinois.

Rich Heritage of Accolades

Interlochen Center for the Arts has received numerous accolades. The institution was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 2006 and was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in 2021.

Interlochen Arts Academy students maintain high academic, artistic, and personal achievement. 100 percent of Academy students graduated during the last five academic years; on average, 90 percent of graduates are accepted into one of their top-three colleges. The school has produced 50 Presidential Scholars—more than any other high school in the nation. Interlochen’s Camp and Academy alums go on to satisfying careers in the arts and other sectors. Its alums have received hundreds of prestigious awards and honours, including:

  • 14 MacArthur Fellowships
  • 144 Grammy Awards

(not including the multitude of Interlochen alums who have performed in ensembles associated with Grammy Award-winning projects)

  • 30 Tony Awards
  • 25 Emmy Awards
  • 3 Pulitzer Prizes

Additionally, 17 percent of musicians in the nation’s major orchestras are Arts Camp or Arts Academy alums.

The Pursuit of a Glorious Future

As Interlochen approaches its centennial, the celebrates its leadership in arts education, drawing upon its remarkable success to envision an even brighter future. The organization is planning to

  • Continue recruiting and retaining renowned faculty to enrich its curriculum and artistic programs, ensuring accomplished, passionate educators serve as mentors for young artists.
  • Continue to utilize the very best visiting artists, artists-in-residence, and visiting faculty, who bring specialized expertise, new voices, and innovative methods to the campus.
  • Ensure its diversity, equity, and inclusion programming inspires Interlochen students, staff, and faculty to serve as agents of compassion and change. In this work, Interlochen Arts Academy is guided by one of Interlochen’s core tenets: World Friendship Through the Universal Language of the Arts.
  • Continue offering special initiatives and touring opportunities to provide exceptional student experiences.

Interlochen believes that every student with the talent and drive to benefit from its programs should have the opportunity to attend, regardless of financial means. The Institution is working to ensure that it can provide access to world-class programs to deserving young artists through financial aid, merit awards, and global scholarships.


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