We crack open a real-deal journal (deep-cuts, doodles and all) from writer Molly Korroch and find out what it’s really like to come of age at one of the most renowned arts camps in the world, Interlochen Arts Camp. Hint: drama, heartache and blue knickers required. 

Interlochen is in the family. My mom, aunt, sister and cousin each attended Interlochen as campers, counselors, academy students, or—in my sister’s case—an assistant set painter for the high school musical. I visited Interlochen for the first time when I was nine years old. My family and I were Up North for our annual vacation and we decided to attend that year’s production of the Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta: The Mikado.

I remember standing outside the Melody Freeze—the little café on the main campus where campers and visitors can gorge on ice cream, pizza, and the signature Melody Freeze—a slushie stuffed with vanilla soft-serve. A woman glanced my way as I ate my ice cream and asked if I planned on attending camp. No way. I didn’t want to be away from home for eight weeks. The adults all laughed.

My first summer at camp was two years later. In total, I spent four summers at Interlochen Arts Camp, making friends, auditioning, singing funny camp songs and silly musical theater songs, making phones calls with a phone card, and loving those navy blue corduroy knickers. While at camp, I got to see performers like Norah Jones, Ben Folds, Van Cliburn, Capitol Steps and Bernadette Peters alongside camp ensembles, performances, and galleries. Of course, I always brought my journal. And my mom always equipped me with a disposable camera—or four. These are my memories…

Featured in the August 2019 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Get your copy.

July 10 / 11:30-ish a.m. / Harvey movement room

I went to WYSO (World Youth Symphony Orchestra) last night, it was amazing! They played ‘The Planets.’ My favorites were Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune. I think overall Neptune was my favorite.

Interlochen Arts Camp holds extremely vivid moments for me—hearing Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planets’ and seeing the legendary American pianist Van Cliburn play. I have this theory that we all come into the world as the most potent versions of ourselves. When we’re kids, we are zealots to our causes, and when I was a kid my cause was musical theater.

2:40 p.m. / Elementary school gym

We are going through listening to people’s solos and small groups and stuff. I don’t have one. And I have been okay with it and everything. But Jeremy’s been going on about getting out there and everything. And then another girl in the program gave me this long talk on how I should get out there. And I’ve got a negative energy and stuff. And that I should talk to our director. Because it seems like I don’t care. I’ve wanted to. But, I don’t know. Any time I get close, I just don’t. And my throat is dying. It’s really killing me. But I can’t tell if it’s just out of practice or if something is physically wrong.

So many Interlochen students will tell you that the magic of the place is in not being alone. There’s solidarity in caring too much about the same thing as your peers. To kids back home, that might be sports or video games. For us, it was art.

A couple of days ago

I got one of the most amazing care packages ever to be received from Maddie and Missy. It’s so fabulous. They are like… custom fit friends. The package included:

• Two letters. One from Maddie, the other from Missy. They were inside a mini Chinese take-out box along with a:
• Lucky pig
• The incomplete book of cat names. (Ironic, because we had just started a scene from Cats.)
• A pack of NINE Ferrero Rochers
• A mix CD
     • Various rap stuff
     • Panic! At the Disco
     • Color Spectrum Song
     • Sue Me
     • Fall Out Boy
• And other amazingly fabulous crap
• The July issue of Vogue
• Disposable camera they found in Colonial Williamsburg with seven pictures left

It took me a few years to realize that performance people are generally nuts. (I don’t feel too bad saying that, because they’re the first to admit it and I was one for so long. My undergraduate degree is a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance.) Post musical theater frenzy, I went the classical route. Over time, I realized that my true love is a good story told well. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d chosen writing for my major at Interlochen instead of musical theater. I remember talking with my parents about it after I’d had the following conversation with my director:

July 7, 2006 / 9:01 a.m. / Classroom in elementary school

So he [the director] said, ‘So, you don’t have a solo.’ Which is true. I am the only one in the whole show who doesn’t have a moment where I sing by myself. Then he said, ‘Did you want one?’ And I said, ‘Nope.’ And he said, ‘Oh, okay.’ That’s what I thought because every time I asked you to sing, you looked like, ‘Oh God, not me!’ so…’ And I was like, yup. You’re right. And I told him how my voice is freaking out. And I told him that I didn’t really want a solo because I really wanted to be working on other stuff, and I didn’t want to kill my voice and that I didn’t want people to think that was the best I can do.

However, a hallmark of my personality is my determination. I was determined that I would do this and do it well. Better than anybody else. I tried so hard and fell flat on my face. Camp is hard. For the performers and musicians, the first couple of days are auditions. Even then, your scene can get cut. You can be replaced. I decided that it would be better to fail privately than in front of everyone.

(To any naysayers: I promise you, I’ve failed dramatically and publicly many times since.)

July 11, 2006 / 3:35 p.m. / Elementary school gym

I wish I had been taking dance lessons since I was really little. My film teacher told me that I look good on film though. Maybe I have a future there.

Hard truths and realizations aside, I discovered much about myself at Interlochen Arts Camp. To be good at performance art, you must care more about it than all other things. As is the nature of the beast and of teenagers, I couldn’t bring myself to fit that mold, as much as I wanted to.

Okay. News.

Day before yesterday at the dunes, a guy asked me out. It was kind of embarrassing. His name is Albert. Alice had a crush on him. (P.S. I hate the word ‘pop.’) So did Jessica. SIGH. Well, I said N-O. So he asked out Jessica instead.

There’s a sweet nostalgia that comes over us all on the final days of camp. Hustling through performances and spending the nights staying up later than we’re supposed to—whispering in our bunks and scratching our names on the walls of our cabins. I learned the words to Simon & Garfunkel’s 59th Street Bridge because it was written on the back of a toilet stall door: I’ve got no deeds to do, no promises to keep. I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep. Let the morning-time drop all its petals on me. Life, I love you, all is groovy. And among my favorite memories of camp are the campier ones. Trips to Sleeping Bear, mixers with other cabins or—gasp!—the boys’ side…

I remember once sitting on the beach at night along with all the other girls in my group. I can’t quite remember if it was Juniors or Intermediates or High School, but there was a bonfire and we all sang our silly songs together. I remember looking up and I could see the moon and ragged clouds. I have no idea why I remember this so clearly, but I thought, “That’s a witch’s moon.” Something about the tangledness of the clouds made it look so mysterious and inspiring to me and to the rest of us girls sitting cross-legged on the beach in oversized Interlochen sweatshirts.

My bunk / 10:13 p.m.

What a night. Me, Hailey, Joey, and Adele, and Kristen had a conversation. Like one of those really good really amazing ones that you hope you’ll never forget. I’ve been so busy lately. It’s crazy here. And I knew that. But I’m learning a lot..

A few years later, when I made the difficult decision to officially give up performing, my voice teacher asked me if I would regret all of the seemingly lost time. I said no. Pursuit of the arts is always worth it. It is the simultaneous pursuit and practice of so many things: cooperation, constructive criticism, creativity, patience, and perhaps the most important, the practice of practice. These skills helped me realize that I wanted to write my own stories. And I must believe that knowing the harmonies to a choral arrangement of Bohemian Rhapsody serves me well in life. At the very least, I’ll have a killer memoir.

Molly Korroch is a journalist currently based in Suttons Bay. 

Interlochen Arts Camp 92nd Season!

Right now, 1,300 young artists—from 51 states and 33 countries—are at Interlochen Center for the Arts’ campus for a summer of artistic collaboration, friendship and fun. Campers dive into studies of creative writing, dance, motion picture arts, music, theater and visual arts, guided by an amazing faculty and gust artists, while immersed in the scenic beauty of Northern Michigan. But in between their time creating, rehearsing and performing, campers squeeze in summer adventure in the northwoods of Michigan. No classes on Monday afternoons…so bring on the field trips to the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Peterson Beach on Lake Michigan—both camper favorites.