Sweet Briar students find inspiration and purpose at Interlochen Arts Camp

Posted on August 15, 2017 by Janika Carey

The next-best thing to being a camper at Interlochen Arts Camp might be this: working as a camp counselor. This summer, three Sweet Briar students ventured north to do just that at Michigan’s world-renowned Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Sweet Briar students at Interlochen concert Sweet Briar students Victoria Jemmett (from left), Katie Leaver and Alison Davis get together for “Les Preludes,” the final concert at Interlochen Arts Camp.

Music major Katie Leaver, of Stafford, Va., logged her second summer at Interlochen, this time serving as Intermediate Meadows counselor.

“My main duties were ensuring my kiddos are safe and well taken care of,” Leaver explains. “I planned many cabin nights, which are events that happen during the evening. We did everything from s’mores to archery to yoga nights. We also have extra duties that help the camp run smoothly. My favorite part of the job is creating a cabin community. We play silly name games and have silly questions during our nightly chats, like ‘Describe your bunkmate as a sandwich’ or ‘What is your favorite utensil?’”

Her campers, she says, fell in love with her decorated tap club hats, which she wore around camp: “My Paint ‘n’ Patches hat is so colorful, my Earphones hat lights up, and my BAM hat has an Interlochen panel! My kids loved stealing them and studying my hats.”

Since 1928, third- through 12th-graders have come to Interlochen from all over the world to study music, theater, visual arts, film, creative writing and dance. They attend music concerts and participate in workshops and performances. For many, it’s a transformation waiting to happen, says Leaver.

“I love watching campers become so much more confident and self-assured by the end of camp,” she says. “It’s so refreshing emotionally, as many campers are for the first time really meeting people as dedicated to the arts as they are.”

Leaver had little trouble conveying her excitement to fellow music major Alison Davis ’19 and Victoria Jemmett ’18, an international affairs and theatre double major, who followed her to Michigan this summer.

Jemmett enjoyed her job as a high school counselor. From monitoring meals to planning cabin events to working in the office, the Denver, Colo., native “wore as many hats as they needed.”

The most gratifying part was interacting with her campers, Jemmett says. “I got to be the arts mentor I needed when I was in high school.” And then there was a lot to take away for her own personal development, too.

“I met a lot of people connected to the theater world, and I got to work on my language skills with foreign campers,” Jemmett says. “Better still, I connected with playwrights and now we’re all supporting each other’s work.”

As an Intermediate Lakeside counselor, Davis, of Fredericksburg, Va., was in charge of middle school girls. Now she plans to apply her experience to a future career in teaching or graduate school — either in theory or performance.

For Leaver, too, the camp was — once again — life-changing.

“Interlochen inspired me to work with young artists,” she explains. “I realized that I wanted to work with students last summer, and I plan on coming back to get my master’s in education in a few years. I would love to find a way to work at the arts academy year-round.”

And, yes, Leaver plans to come back for a third summer after she graduates in May. You could say that (arts) camp is somewhat addictive.

“I didn’t realize how right returning counselors were when they said there are two seasons: camp and not camp,” she says. “This has definitely altered my plans for after college. Before Interlochen, I had no idea — life after college was very nebulous. Now I have some direction.”