Interlochen excites Cayman students of performing arts

Four of Cayman’s brightest
performing arts students, having passed rigorous auditions for a summer
performing arts camp in the US, are enjoying their stay at Interlochen Center
in Northern Michigan.

Melaine Ebanks, Michael Testori,
Bella Rooney and Hannah Howe are enrolled in the prestigious camp, whose alumni
include luminaries such as Norah Jones, Josh Broban and opera star Jessye Norman.

The campus is a wooded environment,
which incorporates Interlochen’s buildings and cabins to house students during
up to six weeks of intensive study and presentations in all the performing
arts. In addition to hundreds of performances, presentations and readings by
young artists, the camp has welcomed guest artists including Bob Dylan, Willie
Nelson, B.B. King, Lyle Lovett, Branford Marsalis and the Moody Blues.

Melaine Ebanks

For Melanie, the current six-week
trip represents her seventh visit to Interlochen. The 17-year-old, who is
studying A-Levels in theatre, music and English at Cayman Prep, is majoring in
Repertory Theatre at the camp. Her class will be producing a comedy of errors.

As well as having performed in
theatre productions at school and with Cayman Drama Society, she plays the
saxophone and viola to a high standard as well as being an accomplished singer.
A three-time finalist of Cayman’s Young Musician of the Year, she has also won
numerous gold awards for her performances in the annual National Children’s
Festival of the Arts for Music and Speech.

She said, “Interlochen is a place
where…  I can be myself in a creative
environment… It’s like a second home to me. I 
simply enjoy my art, the surroundings, the performances”.

As well as enjoying her studies,
she likes the community and social aspects of the summer camp. “We stay in very
rustic cabins in small bunk beds. There are 14 girls to a cabin, but cabin life
is like having a huge family.  There are
concerts every weekend of professional standard, an incredible place in
general,” she said.

According to her mother Sheree,
Interlochen is playing a pivotal role in Melanie’s continued arts education by
introducing her to a world that was not available to her locally. “…While
some may view the camp as expensive, we have treated [it] as an overall cost to
her ongoing education… Performing arts are not offered to children in Cayman
at this level, this is how it is supplemented… We believe that we have found
the right mix by affording her this opportunity”.   

Michael Testori

Sixteen-year-old Michael, who is
majoring in jazz this year, last attended Interlochen two years ago. The St.
Ignatius student is another gifted saxophonist. The winner of the first annual
Butterfield Young Musician of the Year 2008 last took to the stage earlier this
year in the well-received Music for Orphans fundraiser for Haiti at Pedro St.
James. As well as being a member of his school’s concert and stage bands, he is
a choir member. Michael’s extra-curricular activities include diving, fishing,
tennis and soccer.

He, too, enjoys the artistic
excellence the institute and camp offers and said: “Interlochen has made me
realise the true definition of what a high standard really is and what it takes
to reach that level… [It] is a wonderful place… for it … tests your
ability and pushes you past boundaries you once thought unbreakable”.

With jazz improv, jazz history, big
band workshops and jazz master classes, Michael’s can never say he’s bored.

His free-time is usually spent on
the waterfront, relaxing or playing football or frisbee with fellow campers.

“I hope to improve my technique and
skills and look forward to meeting more musical friends,” said Micheal about
his summer away.

Isabella Rooney

Like her best friend Hannah Howe,
Bella Rooney is a newcomer to Interlochen. Bella, who is taking the
Intermediate Musical Theatre Workshop programme, sees the camp as an important
stepping stone to keep her on track for her future career in musical theatre.

According to her father, Neil, “It
is an intensive three weeks of musical presentation, acting technique, musical
theatre dance, character analysis, ensemble singing…  The group will create an original production,
which will be presented on the final weekend. Mixed in are classes on fencing,
archery, and visual arts – plus lots of free time for swimming and hiking.”

The 12-year-old said, “My favourite
part, so far, is learning a whole bunch of extremely new and fun techniques in
my musical theatre class…  I have met
some really, really talented people here – extremely good artists, amazing singers
– people I can relate to.”

A typical day includes taking a
musical theatre class, and attending Introduction to acting. After lunch its
back to musical theatre followed by recreation and cabin time. “It’s just a big
holiday, but with other kids… Everywhere you go on the campus you can hear
music being played, practiced and performed – in cabins, rehearsal tents and
the many outdoor performance venues.”

Hannah Howe

Twelve-year-old Hannah Howe has
performing arts in her blood being the daughter of Cayman Drama Society leading
light Sue Howe. As well as performances with Miss Jackie’s School of Dance
(ballet, tap and jazz) and with Linda Rayner and with her school choir, she
also plays the piano.

On her return, she will be in Year
8 at Montessori by the Sea. She has acted in two musicals, playing Nellie in
the CDS’s production of Annie Get Your Gun and most recently July in Annie the

Hannah is majoring in General Arts
at the summer camp, which involves classes in acting, sculpture and
environmental studies and introduction to instruments.

According to her mother,  Hannah specifically chose the elective, “to
take the opportunity to study what she hasn’t been exposed to in Cayman.”

By participating in instrumental
exploration sessions Hannah hoped, said her mother, to “broaden her scope and
appreciation for musical instruments”.

“My favourite part, so far, is the
difference in my classes and meeting new people and the fun that we have,” said
Hannah. “It’s just a big holiday, but with other kids. I’m really excited about
the rest of the summer, to be able to explore more of the things I’ve signed up
for, and to meet new people of course. It’s been an incredible experience so
far, and I hope that more people from the Cayman Islands come.”