I just finished my first session teaching Music Composition at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan. My former roommate and talented composer, Zach Pfeifer started the program several years ago. Though he had asked me to do a session in the past, this was the year I could commit.
I’ve learned in the past two weeks that despite living in a cabin the woods with no air, no real coffee, no wi-fi, is that these high schoolers are still incredibly eager to learn and that there’s no slouching despite the lack of modern amenities. These students nearly got me in trouble, as they asked to come to class after instructional hours to work on their compositions. They asked me to write a note to their counselors (7 notes total), and I promptly received a nice note myself from the higher-ups stating meetings outside of instructional time is outside of policy. I totally understand the reasons why, but I the drive the of the students here is in itself inspiring.
This first session, in a 10 days, my students wrote four small pieces, collaborated with harpists & wrote a harp solo (some got theirs recorded), and then wrote a final project for performance with Blue Lake’s New Music Ensemble. They write all their music and revisions by hand. Each piece involved a combination of the ensemble (FL, Cl1, CL2, Alto Sax, or Piano) and averaged ~ 5 minutes in length.
I’ve mainly survived here because of the kindness of others here at Blue Lake. I was a little unprepared for my first year here — a little unprepared for the heat and cold in the days and evenings. I would sweat in the evenings and freeze while sleeping. Olivia mailed a blanket and mother sent me a fan. My sister sent me a crazy care package with more food than I could eat in four weeks. Someone I met from the Symposium for Laptop Ensembles and Orchestra conference last year, who happens to be a counselor at Blue Lake lent me her french press. I’ve since ordered coffee from Highland Coffees, the best coffee shop in Baton Rouge (and most places, in fact).
The driver who picked me up from the airport in Grand Rapids lent his bike, which is the best method to navigate the camp. I got a flat tire the day after I got the bike, and my cabin mate gave his spare inner tube and helped me change it out. Friends I have made have take out to town and to the beach.
Friends whom I have known since grad school have helped show my around the greater area of Twin Lake/Muskegon/Whitehall.
Needless to say, the community here is amazing and the musicians are super friendly. Anyone who has a chance to, should come.
On my spare time, I’ve found plenty of inspiration from the natural surroundings. I swam in Lake Michigan, for the first time, at Sunset (which is at a crazy hour of 9:30pm!). I’ve made field recordings of the local sounds and video of the sweeping weather across the Lake.
Now that I’ve gotten one session under my belt, as I prepare for the second session, I’ve been in contact with Zach and Session 3 & 4 instructor (also a friend and talented composer) Lindsey Jacob about ideas of growth for the composition department here in Blue Lake.