Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp

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Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp is a summer arts camp in Twin Lake, Michigan, United States, and is located in the Manistee National Forest. In 2006, 7,814 participants were enrolled in Blue Lake’s numerous programs. Since its beginning in 1966, over 250,000 students have attended. 2006 marked Blue Lake’s 40th anniversary season.

Four of Michigan’s Governors have noted Blue Lake as “one of Michigan’s great cultural assets.” Blue Lake includes the Blue Lake Scholarship Program where representatives travel to schools and award scholarships. Everyone who auditions receives a scholarship in some amount, which goes along with Blue Lake’s philosophy of letting anyone, regardless of skill, receive the Blue Lake experience.

In addition to the summer camp, BLFAC hosts several music festivals, a family camp, and programs for adults.


1 Camp Structure

1.1 Summer Music Camp

1.2 Art (and Photography)

1.3 Choir, Piano, Harp, Dance

1.4 Theatre

1.5 Blue Lake Opera Company

1.6 Camp Bernstein

2 Daily Schedules

3 Fall and Spring Sessions

4 Camp Facilities

5 Camp Uniform

6 Blue Lake’s International Exchange Program

7 Summer Arts Festival

8 Public Radio

9 Notable Alumnus

10 External links

11 References


Camp Structure

BLFAC offers several different “camps within a camp”, separated by time (when offered during the year) and age.

International program Blue Lake sends four or five groups of talented young campers to Europe for three weeks.

Summer Music Camp

BLFAC has four two-week primary summer camp sessions (identified in most materials as Session I, II, III and IV). Traditionally, the first two sessions were for junior high or middle school aged students while the second two sessions were for high school aged students. For awhile they changed this to junior high during Sessions I and IV, with high school Sessions II and III). Currently, this has changed yet again. Now sessions I and II are primarily high school students while sessions III and IV are junior high or middle school students. There is also a junior camp available called Camp Bernstein, which serves young middle school and junior high students all summer long. The age recommendations are primarily for the comfort of the campers, not only for interpersonal interactions, but also for musical skill level.

Depending on the year, Jazz Bands are organized at least once per each age level (eg: Session I and III or II and IV), and as of 2006 are offered during all four Sessions.

Orchestras are also organized each summer session, with wind instruments allowed in all Sessions.

For all music programs, campers audition upon arrival to be placed into bands or orchestras based on their skill levels. “Symphonic” is used to describe the highest placement possible in Band and “Masterworks” in the Orchestra. Additionally, there are, depending on the number of campers, additional bands and orchestras named with colors (usually Red, White and Blue). For Sessions that allow wind instruments in orchestra, the top auditioning wind players are seated in the orchestras created for that Session.

Art (and Photography)

An Art program is offered at Blue Lake along with the other departments. The Blue Lake Arts program motivates students teaching skills and fundamentals during the High School Sessions. Students take a variety of different classes including: Drawing, painting, fiber arts, ceramics and sculpture. In the Fiber class, students are encouraged to design their own new Looms.

Photography used to be an additionally offered program, but is no longer available.

Choir, Piano, Harp, Dance

At BLFAC other performance majors have places too. The Choir department is split into two groups per session: the SATB choir,the lowest level chior, the SSA choir, a higher level group w/ better sight reading skills, and the Chamber Choir made up of advanced campers from the other two chiors.

Pianists are also a part of the Blue Lake program, having intensive rehearsals and a grand finale concert at the end of each session. Piano Majors are known for having long times to rehearse on their own.

The Harp program, accommodating only 6 harpists per session, is unique from most other music camp offerings. Session II for Harp majors is a special session concentrating on developing skills necessary for orchestral and chamber music playing.

The Dance program was lead for many years by renowned teacher Jefferson Baum, including Advanced Ballet ensemble and Ballet I & II classes. Mr. Baum moved to Arizona and the new director of Dance is Julie Powell.


In 2006 a new theatre was added to the Blue Lake campus for theatre majors, featuring a large 700 seat air conditioned theatre with small rooms for Theatre majors class work. Recently the Blue Lake Theatre department has allowed students to select an area of emphasis such as Shakespeare or Musical Theatre and the original contemporary acting program, students are placed into one of the concentrations upon their first audition. In 2008 Blue lake also announced new theatrical minors; Shakespeare and Musical Theatre are now available to students.

Blue Lake Opera Company

The New Theatre also houses performance space for the Blue Lake Opera Company. In 2006 it opened with an original opera The Last Leaf by Dr. James Niblock. The 2007 production is Puccini Gianni Schicchi, which is sung entirely in Italian with English supertitles.

Camp Bernstein

Recognizing that younger students may also benefit from the BLFAC experience, Camp Bernstein (most recently located in what was formerly known as “East Point Unit”), affords younger campers a more structured and less competitive BLFAC experience which is geared more toward addressing the needs of beginner or less experienced instrumentalists. Campers’ receive sectional instruction on their individual instruments taught by the Camp Bernstein counselors (with main camp counselors to fill in what ever sections are not covered by Bernstein counselors).

Camp Bernstein is open to students going into grades six through eight, and it is only open to band and orchestra students. However, Camp Bernstein does offer free electives in art, drama, choir, jazz and music appreciation. It is a common option for students who are new to summer camp settings.

Daily Schedules

For most campers, their daily schedule is fairly standard. From the BLFAC website “Campers begin their day at approximately 6:00 am by getting up and ready for breakfast. Mornings are filled with classes and rehearsals. After lunch, students have a break for rest, recreation, an elective course, or individual practice. Afternoon classes and rehearsals end around 4:00 p.m., leaving plenty of time to rest and clean up for dinner. For meals, students have to sing songs. Whatever cabin is the loudest gets their food first. Evening activities conclude each day with arts performances or camp fun.

Fall and Spring Sessions

During seasons other than summer, BLFAC hosts a variety of adult learning programs, as well as marching band camp facilities and a Suzuki camp.

Camp Facilities

Campers are all housed in one room cabins, with approximately 11 campers and 1 staff person per cabin. Six cabins are placed close to each other in Units, headed by a Unit Director. Male and female Units are clustered close to each other, with one gender at each end of the campus.

Male units: Bandwagon, Broadway, Big Band, Highlights, and Canvas (so named because it was originally composed of canvas tents, but now, it features cabins with the names of famous artists who painted on canvas)

Female units: Promenade, Aria, Billings Point, Sleepy Hollow, West Point, Oakridge, Novella, Left Bank, Siena,…
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