Enterprising Young Musicians On The Road To Interlochen Interlochen is one of the most prestigious summer music and arts camps in the country. It's also one of the most expensive. With the economy in the doldrums, how are families affording it? Some enterprising young campers have been extra-resourceful in coming up with the cash.
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Enterprising Young Musicians On The Road To Interlochen

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Enterprising Young Musicians On The Road To Interlochen

Enterprising Young Musicians On The Road To Interlochen

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For young people seeking a career in the arts, a number of prestigious summer camps can provide valuable training. Interlochen, in northern Michigan, is one of them. Jessye Norman, Josh Groban, Norah Jones all spent their summers there when they were younger. Tuition runs into the thousands of dollars, which would seem to limit the camp to rich kids.

But NPR's Elizabeth Blair visited and spoke with some resourceful young people who'd found a way to study there.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: Interlochen has been around since 1928. It was first called the National High School Orchestra Camp. Its founder, the late Joe Maddy, was known to be a visionary who was often short on cash. His goal was total immersion in the arts.

(Soundbite of music)

BLAIR: Over time, Maddy got his wish. Just walk around Interlochen. Around every tree, someone is practicing in of the dozens of small cabins scattered throughout the woods.

(Soundbite of piano music)

BLAIR: Every camper takes classes. Every camper either gets small group or private instruction. And every camper has the chance to perform.

(Soundbite of a symphony)

BLAIR: Thats Interlochen World Youth Symphony Orchestra. Even though the summer camp is heaven for aspiring musicians, its also old school. In some ways, it's hard to believe so many teenagers would want to spend the summer here. They have to wear uniforms. They have to hand over their cell phones, and only get them back twice a week. And at about 6:30 AM, every weekday, there's morning line-up.

(Soundbite of trumpet music, "Call to Post")

Ms. CASSI MIKAT (Singer/Actor): That's the worst part of the day. After that, I'm fine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLAIR: Singer and actor Cassi Mikat Brighton, from Brighton, Michigan, is studying musical theater. Two summers ago, she did a one-week program at Interlochen.

Ms. MIKAT: I didn't really realize, until I got here, how amazing it is, and how great the instructors are, and how much I would learn, and how many connections I would get when I was here.

BLAIR: Mikat was determined to come back for the six-week program. She says her parents made a deal with her: She had to pay a certain amount of it herself.

Ms. MIKAT: Cause I have four younger siblings, and it's just not possible to pay for that much camp with that many people in my family.

BLAIR: So Cassi Mikat got to work. Since people always complemented the colorful, flower hairpins she made for herself out of soda cans, she set up a Facebook page and started selling them for $5 apiece. Mikat says she made her about $700 towards tuition for Interlochen.

Ms. MIKAT: I made quite a few and it takes about 30 minutes per hairpin. And what I really needed was a staff so I can make them, cause I was always trying to keep up with orders.

BLAIR: For the rest of the more than $7,000 she needed for tuition, Mikat baby-sat, and says for two Christmases in a row, she asked for cash instead of presents. The rest came from a scholarship from Interlochen.

Ms. MIKAT: Now that I'm finally here, I want to get as much out of it as I possibly can, cause I worked so hard and I dont want to waste any of the time that I have.

BLAIR: Working with a cast of 40 other campers, Cassie Mikat got the lead in the musical "Carousel."

Ms. MIKAT: (Singing) May was full of promises but she didn't keep them quickly enough for some. And a lot of doubting Thomases was predicting that the summer would never come.

MALE CHORUS: (Singing) But it's coming, by gum. We can feel it come. You can feel it in your heart. You can see its on the ground.

FEMALE CHORUS: (Singing) You can hear it in the trees. You can smell it in the breeze.

CHORUS: (Singing) Look around. Look around. Look around

BLAIR: Interlochen campers have a reputation for being pretty intense. Interlochen does have traditional camp activities and encourages fun.

Mr. DEON MCDANIEL (Musical Theater): Now, this is sad. This is really sad. They actually force us to do things.

BLAIR: Things like arts and crafts and swimming in the lake, says Deon McDaniel, a 17-year-old bass baritone from Cleveland, Ohio. But he would much rather just sing.

Mr. MCDANIEL: (Singing in foreign language)

Unidentified Man: Nice, now tell me about the

BLAIR: McDaniel says in years past, he didnt have the courage to apply to Interlochen. Once he finally did and got in, he says he was thrilled. Then reality set in.

Mr. MCDANIEL: Okay, how am I going to pay for this camp thats $7,000-something?

BLAIR: That's high for just about anyone, but McDaniel's family was going through an extra-hard time. His mother experienced some financial difficulties and they lost their home to foreclosure.

Ms. MCDANIEL: I was so comfortable in my life for a very long time. And then this came out of nowhere, which threw us all off guard.

BLAIR: McDaniel went to live with his grandmother.

Interlochen saw his potential and gave him a scholarship for $5,000. Still, he had to come up with the balance. He wrote letters to potential sponsors. He got in touch with the music directors at the two churches where he sings. Donations large and small poured in. He gave a recital where there was a free-will offering.

Ms. MCDANIEL: And I said every little bit counts, 'cause it really does. Every - I didn't even care if somebody gave me a dime, a penny, a nickel, whatever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MCDANIEL: It all added up eventually.

BLAIR: Now McDaniel spends his days and nights working on his music. He's already performed in the camp's nearly 4,000-seat auditorium with the World Youth High School Choir.

WORLD YOUTH HIGH SCHOOL CHOIR: (Singing in foreign language)

BLAIR: Over the decades, young people have traveled to Interlochen by plane, bus, train, or even hitchhiked.

Conductor Jung-Ho Pak is the camp's orchestra director, he says the campers who've had to come up with part or all of the tuition themselves are showing an entrepreneurial spirit that will serve them well.

Mr. JUNG-HO PAK (Orchestra Director): It really is a testament to how much they want to be an artist. Because it doesn't get any easier when you graduate Interlochen, or go to conservatory and graduate and try to get a job. It's about sacrifice. But it's also about love and the things that we do for the things we're passionate about.

BLAIR: Things like wearing a uniform, giving up your cell phone and practicing a lot.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(Soundbite of a song)

WORLD YOUTH HIGH SCHOOL CHOIR: (Singing in foreign language)



KELLY: Im Mary Louise Kelly.

INSKEEP: And Im Steve Inskeep.

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