Role Models, Peanut Butter and My Trunk (Interlochen Alumni Magazine, 1996)

Originally published in
Crescendo (Notes from Interlochen)
Winter 1996, Volume 28, Number 12

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Role models, peanut butter and my trunk
By Adam Glaser (IB 84, Staff 90-92)

It is often said that true love blooms when you’re not looking for it.

When I first donned a badge and various shades of blue, I wasn’t looking for it, much less hoping for it. But it happened. I fell in love with music at Interlochen. And I mean the serious kind. Mad, out-of-control, passionate love, from which I have yet to recover.

We could name a few easy culprits. Sunsets on Green Lake during WYSO concerts. That quiet moment in Grunow just before the lights go up. Scales rising into the treetops above practice huts. Red-sweatered chorus Intermediates hugging each other as they sing their final concert. Rachmaninoff. A vanilla cone with rainbow sprinkles and a good friend with spare time. The Minnesota Building. Coke dates. The Interlochen Theme.

Each of these had its own effect, but none as powerful as the experience of spending a few weeks watching my peers reach the best parts of themselves through the arts. Though I had spent my childhood learning the theory, structure and technique of music, I had somehow skipped that part about endearing music to my heart. I didn’t even know it was there.

In my first summer on the Camp staff, a co-worker invited me to hear him perform a sonata for french horn at a recital in McWhorter Hall. During a piano interlude, I watched him literally embracing his instrument. His eyes closed, arms dearly holding his horn – what appeared, at the moment, to be his greatest love – the pair calmly awaited their next entrance, clearly enamored with the sweet prospect of what they would share with us in a matter of seconds.

I was blindsided. That summer, I scarfed down peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with this guy. We swept floors and emptied trash, walked to the Fireplace Inn for Polka Night, juggled koosh balls, and monitored Boris Becker’s progress at Wimbledon. Suddenly, I’m watching this same person fill the room with a seamless melody, indulging his deepest happiness, following his bliss.

At Interlochen, we stumble unsuspectingly upon the most unlikely heroes and role models: our peers, our friends. Why “unsuspectingly?" First, Interlochen insists that we check our egos at the door when we sign in. That means everyone, stars included. Second, we spot these role models not on the concert stage or CD covers, but rather, next to us scrubbing toilets at dawn, playing ultimate Frisbee, wearing the same clothes we wear. No one is led to believe they’re in the presence of greatness.

But they are. And it is unique greatness, without the posturing that so often makes it daunting and unapproachable. It can be touched, challenged, even tried on for size. Best of all, this is a greatness that fosters emulation over envy, admiration over adversity. From it, we are taught to love ourselves for what we have not quite mastered…yet.

Imagine each of us taking this approach to the practice room, the easel, the bar and mirror, the theater, the office or the gym. Imagine being totally unaware of the 52,000 reasons the brain comes up with not to give onself completely to our passion.

Next to the improved technique and expanded repertoire (and well-worn cords and knickers), these are the belongings we packed in our trunks and brought home with us on Monday morning after Les Preludes: the artistic and personal inspiration we found in new friends; the image of peers, no different than us, working in their element; the very real prospect that we, too, will reach our greatest potential.

I refuse to unpack, and I still lug these gifts with me wherever I go. They keep me connected to some magical place where I first learned, by example, to find my bliss and follow it. Call that place a spot in northern Michigan. Or call it the most centered, focused part of myself. It’s the same thing, and I’ll always be there.

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Copyright 1996, Adam Glaser