Get to Know Interlochen Arts Camp (Again!)

If you grew up knowing Interlochen as a music camp for high school kids, take a second look. This summer, your child could have the creative summer of their dreams. Learn how.

For creative kids — and those who hope to engage more deeply with their art, music, dance, filmmaking, acting, writing and so much more — summer camp at Interlochen Arts Camp could be that experience that they harken back to throughout their lives. If you grew up knowing about music camp at Interlochen, it’s worth another look because the entire experience has grown and changed, says Katherine Luellen, executive dean of enrollment management at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

“Interlochen is a place where every young artist can grow, have fun, learn and connect with like-minded peers in a creative, educational program,” Luellen says.

Founded in 1928 in scenic northern Michigan near Traverse City, Interlochen Arts Camp is situated on a 1,200-acre wooded campus between two freshwater lakes, with abundant outdoor spaces for open-air classes and rehearsals. Students take advantage of numerous performance venues, exhibition spaces and state-of-the-art facilities, including Interlochen’s 64,000-square-foot Music Center and newly opened 25,905 square-foot lakeside Dance Center.

Interlochen Arts Camp is part of Interlochen Center for the Arts, one of the country’s cultural gems, which also encompasses Interlochen Arts Academy, the nation’s premier arts boarding school; continuing education in the arts; two public radio stations (classical music and news); and over 600 performances each year by celebrated guest artists, Interlochen students and faculty.

In the summertime, Interlochen is all about camp. Interlochen Arts Camp welcomes students ages 8 to 19 — current third graders through graduating high school seniors — for sessions ranging from one to six weeks in seven arts disciplines. Campers can select programs in creative writing, dance, interdisciplinary arts, film and new media, music, theater or visual arts. Not all programs require an audition for entry, says Luellen.

Interlochen Arts Camp is absolutely the place to be for career-focused violinists and saxophonists who have their sights on the finest symphonies in the world. But because it has so many immersive programs for kids of all levels, Interlochen Arts Camp is also where kids who love graphic arts, hip hop, songwriting or film production can learn from masters in their crafts.

This summer, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Interlochen Arts Camp will operate at reduced capacity, with proven protocols that enabled Interlochen Arts Academy to host over 500 students this year with zero instances of community transmission.

“We are committed to providing students with a deeply enriching Camp experience, exceptional arts education training and a safe environment in which to learn and thrive,” says Luellen. (For students who prefer a virtual arts education experience, Interlochen will offer two three-week sessions of its highly rated Interlochen Online.)

We take a deeper look at what makes Interlochen Arts Camp so unique and accessible to kids.

Many reasons to consider Interlochen this summer

“Kids choose to come here for a lot of reasons. Yes, Interlochen has a world-class reputation, but there’s so much here to attract kids from all over,” Luellen says.

Because Michigan is easily accessible by car from Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Toronto, Nashville, Cedar Rapids and beyond, it’s far enough — but not too far — for kids to have an independent summer experience of their own. Campers come from 53 states and territories, plus 42 different countries to attend Interlochen Arts Camp, Luellen says.

The idyllic northern Michigan setting provides kids the chance to bathe in nature and mingle with like-minded peers differently than they would in their day-to-day lives. This summer, as part of Interlochen’s COVID-19 preparedness plan, students will be grouped by their program and will experience all aspects of Camp within their “cohort,” including classes, recreational activities and meals — enhancing safety while facilitating deep bonds and giving each student personalized attention.

“We really give students the opportunity to forge meaningful connections with mentors and one another,” she adds.

While campers can spend up to six hours each day focused on their chosen discipline, there’s plenty of time for ice cream, crafts, s’mores and recreation along four different lakefronts, too.

Collaborative environment for developing artists

When campers embark upon their Interlochen experience, they quickly recognize they have found a place where they can explore their passions alongside kids who are doing the same — at a time when they are primed to learn and grow exponentially.

“Right now it’s important for young people who have creative juices to surround themselves with others who can support their passion,” Luellen says. “They can feel safe to explore their creative capacities and all the fun parts and recreation opportunities give these students a chance to breathe. They create art and find glimpses of who they are when they have that space to breathe.”

Interlochen Arts Camp helps some kids recognize the collaborative effort that can make music, dance, drama and art richer and more satisfying. “Some think that art is a solo process. Yes, you are practicing and perfecting but a lot of it is collaborative, too. The more people you have on your team to help create, the better. Interlochen gives kids access to different people — from peers to professionals — who inspire them.”

Camp life impacts future life

As a former college admission professional, Luellen knows what top colleges and universities are looking for, and she says Interlochen Arts Camp offers just that.

“Colleges want to recruit students who made the choice to spend time with people from all over the world, having fun and studying their art. We always congratulate students when they find Interlochen because we know they are about to change the trajectory of their lives. Interlochen helps kids find themselves and recognize a clearer path to achieve their goals,” Luellen says.

The experience is flexible, too. Three separate age divisions allow campers to spend time with kids their own age. The Junior division accommodates kids who are in third through sixth grade; Intermediate division is for kids in sixth through ninth grade and the High School division is for those in ninth through 12th grade. All sections relate to the grade a camper was in for the 2020-2021 academic year.

For those on the cusp of an age group, Interlochen allows parents and kids to make decisions about which group is a best fit. “Notice that grades six and nine are duplicated in the two divisions. We create that option mindfully so families can choose what works best for their schedules, length of program or maybe a camper is young for their age or new to their instrument,” Luellen explains.

Generous donations make financial aid a real possibility for many kids to experience Interlochen Arts Camp. But don’t wait, Luellen says. “We love to hear from families who are interested in exploring Interlochen Arts Camp, so don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or send us an email,” she says.

Interlochen Arts Camp 2021 will run from June 19 to Aug. 8, 2021. Due to reduced capacity, students are encouraged to apply to Arts Camp at as soon as possible. (Early applications will receive priority consideration.)

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Chicago Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.


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