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Mendy Smith

Interlochen Adult Chamber Camp - Insider Tips

March 21, 2013 at 5:04 AM

This first day of spring, I yearn for summer. Not for the oppressive heat, humidity and swarms of mosquitoes that we see here in the Deep South, but for what I do during the last days of summer: Interlochen.

This will be my 6th (gasp!) year at Interlochen's Adult Chamber Music Camp. My first year the only people I knew were a few of the faculty through my teacher, including him. Over the years I have made friends with a diverse group of people who share a common passion for music. In the past few years, some of those folks have been fellow v.com-ers.

If you haven't been to the camp before and are planning on or thinking about attending this year, here are some FAQs:

1) Where should I stay?

There are three main lodging options: the Stone Hotel, Dorms, and "lodges". The hotel is where the meals are served and is the "hub" where schedules posted, an old fashioned bulletin board for communication between campers and faculty, and the go-to meet-up spot. The dorms are located close to the hotel and cost less than the hotel or "lodges". Lodges are rustic cabins that have a bit more space and privacy, but are generally located further away from the centers of activity and can be a bit of a hike.

2) What should I bring?

You really do not need to bring a music stand unless you plan on staying in one of the cabins. There are practice rooms available in some of the dorm basements late into the evening equipped with music stands.

You do not need to bring alot of music. The school has an extensive music library. Bring your part for pieces you really want to play if you want, but it is not necessary.

If you do not stay in the hotel, you will want to bring a hair dryer (if you use one). Other items that are useful no matter where you are staying are a light jacket, rain gear, flash light, and snacks that do not have to be refrigerated.
There is a small shop on campus with snack material, and "town" is about a mile or two down the road. It is amazing how hungry you get after playing until the wee hours!

Bring something to take notes with such as a small note-pad. You will also want something to keep a schedule on such as index cards or a smart-phone/tablet with a calendar app (more on that later).

3) What is the skill level of the camp?

Playing skills vary, however you should be comfortable playing your instrument. This is not a camp for pure beginners. If you are coming back after a long break, don't worry! You won't be alone, but I would suggest getting the dust bunnies out of your instrument before August :) If you are an advanced player, you also won't be alone. I have heard the Mendelssohn Octet and Bartok played at a high level by participants.

4) Do I need to practice music on the repertoire list in advance?

Not necessarily. What is listed are pieces that may or may not be assigned for you. Practice pieces that you would like to play with others, but don't go overboard with it. Unless you are familiar with a wide range of chamber music, you will be sight reading much of the time (which should be practiced!). More on that later...

5) What is the schedule / days like?

After the opening assembly, new campers will be assigned a mentor to help you get accustomed to how the camp operates.

The days are structured so that there is a large conducted ensemble in the morning (two different difficulty levels), followed by "organized ensembles". After lunch there are various master classes and pedagogy classes. After dinner are the faculty and quartet-in-residence concerts.

Then there is what is called "dis-organized" ensembles. A "dis-organized" ensemble are groups that are put together informally by you the participant, to play what you want when you want - even into the wee hours of the morning if you desire. This is where you want something to keep a schedule with so as to not double-book yourself or forget an appointment.

"Dis-organizing" starts happening the moment people start checking into their rooms or even earlier (I've seen it happen at the airport waiting on luggage!) It really starts picking up just before the opening assembly. So, have your calendar ready sooner than you think you should!

6) I'm a terrible sight reader. Is this really for me?

Yes!!! This is for you! By the end of the week, you will have learned more about sight reading than you ever will in an entire year. The key thing to remember is "no matter what happens, KEEP GOING!" If you loose your place, give the "I'm lost" look - someone will give you a rehearsal mark or measure number. You do NOT have to play all the notes. I've been known to literally sing measures that I couldn't otherwise play.

7) What else should I know about?

If you have a special diet, contact the Stone Hotel in advance. They can help make sure your needs are met.

The campus is BIG. Wear comfy walking shoes. There are shuttle carts that can take you to and back from most of the scheduled events.

Contact the Stone Hotel in advance for shuttle service to and from the airport for a small fee if you are flying in.

There is a local restaurant/pub or two a mile down the road if you get tired of the cafeteria food. There is also a national park across the street with hiking and swimming.


That's about all I can think of at the moment.


From Ann Marie Cordial
Posted on March 21, 2013 at 1:01 PM
So I guess you end up taking 2 flights in (if you're from out of state) and shuttle to campus? How is it flying with your viola?

--Ann Marie

From Carol Deaville
Posted on March 21, 2013 at 3:51 PM
Thanks for the tips, Mendy. Sounds great!
From Eugenia Fielding
Posted on March 21, 2013 at 9:42 PM
I really want to go now!!!

A couple of questions:
Would you recommend renting a car?
Are the cabins rustic or creepy (In other words, in the middle of the night, am I going to be listening to crickets or listening for serial killers?
There were two options for groups on the website, Horizons and Polestar. Which would you recommend. I've never been, so I don't have a pre-existing group, but generally, I like working on details of one piece rather than lots of different pieces. What would you recommend?

From Mendy Smith
Posted on March 22, 2013 at 2:03 AM
Ann - I'm not certain yet. I may fly into Detroit and carpool with a friend the rest of the way. I've flown into Traverse City in the past and never had an issue bringing my viola on-board.

Eugenia - on the car: it really depends on if you want to get away from campus in the evenings or not. Personally, I end up playing with groups every night late into the evening, so for me it is almost a waste. The cabins are not creepy rustic, just what you would expect to see in a campground but with more amenities (except A/C). As far as what group to join, I'd recommend the Horizon's to start with. You can always request a group later in the week if you want.

From elise stanley
Posted on March 22, 2013 at 6:45 AM
What a wonderful intro Mendy! You go over just about all of the things that were confusing to me before I went (2011) - just wish I had had that info then. The folks at interlochen should add this to their official page.

Just like to stress that the camp is not about performance (others I've been to work on a few pieces for a week and then perform them). Its really about exposure to repertoire, sight reading and music immersion - and, by being forced to play with so many groups, making lots of friends and contacts.

There are, however, pre-formed groups that go and focus on their own pieces and there is an opportunity to perform at the end of the week. There is also absolutely top-notch professional performance and participation.

As far as ability is concerned I think you should be at least able to play your part in an early-to-mid level Mozart quartet. Is that a reasonable measuring stick Mendy?

I would have to say it was one of the most amazing weeks of my life - the question is whether work will let me go back this year...

From Christina C.
Posted on March 22, 2013 at 6:40 PM

Great post! I have at least 2 workshop buddies who are Interlochen regulars and I've heard nothing but good things about it. One of the best coaches I've ever had was on staff there as well.

And yes, this is the time of year that we workshop junkies are getting those summer workshop applications in the mail and that's invariably accompanied by desperately wishing summer was already here.

From Rachel Bernard
Posted on March 22, 2013 at 11:54 PM
Are the faculty members nice? Do you get to choose how many ensembles to be in?
From elise stanley
Posted on March 23, 2013 at 2:17 AM
You have the option of selecting just one or two to work only on one piece all week - but IMO I think you miss the best of it that way. Its best to just let the crazy place carry you away - both with teh organized program and with the numerous pickup groups that form each day.

Oh, and by the way, I'm going - I just signed up - so see you all there :) :)

From Mendy Smith
Posted on March 23, 2013 at 2:32 AM
Elise - YEAH!!!!!

Rachel - yes you can pick how many groups you want to play in. But as Elise said, it is best the first year to dive in feet first (IMO).

The faculty are the best!! They love teaching/coaching adults, and have a fun sense of humor. They interact with the participants regularly on an informal level as well as a professional one. I consider many of them personal friends.

From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on March 23, 2013 at 4:33 AM
Oh this sounds fun!
From elise stanley
Posted on March 23, 2013 at 7:35 AM
Can we make a V.com pickup group? We have violins and violas here of course - not so much cellos I think - but maybe there. The advantage of agreeing beforehand is that we can work up a piece...
From Christina C.
Posted on March 25, 2013 at 2:23 PM
"They (the faculty) interact with the participants regularly on an informal level as well as a professional one. I consider many of them personal friends."
That is something that I now look for in a workshop. One friend at a workshop last year organized a pick-up chamber music session for herself and all of the other players were professionals. She was amazed that no one said no. Of course there are many factors but once I'm there I find that ultimately it comes down to the people there with you... I've made some wonderful friends and being able to count coaches among them makes for an even better experience.

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