The Class of 2019's Jacob Egol shares his summer experience with the Interlochen Center for the Arts, including his role as principal cellist of the Interlochen Philharmonic, and how Ranney Performing Arts inspired his passion for music back in the third grade
I am writing this reflection from a bench overlooking Green Lake at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Northwestern Michigan. As I sit here on the beautiful central mall of Interlochen’s campus, I am thinking about the past six weeks that I have spent here as a cellist in the Interlochen’s high school summer music program. My experience at Interlochen has been the highlight of my musical journey so far - a journey began at Ranney School.
The first time I picked up a cello was in 2010, during the spring of third grade. Dr. Dorothy Sobieski, who had just arrived at Ranney that school year as the All-Division Orchestra Director, offered a new “Introduction to Strings” after-school program. We started from the very beginning, learning the names of the strings, how to pluck them, how to hold a bow, and the basics of reading music. Even when we were in the Lower School, Dr. Sobieski challenged and encouraged us. Beginning in fourth grade, orchestra was offered as an elective program that was part of our daily class schedule. Many of my fellow peers have remained in orchestra since the Lower School and we still play together in the Upper School Orchestra – this is a testament to the strength of our school’s music program and to Dr. Sobieski’s leadership. Each year, we grow and are joined by new musicians, and this makes the Ranney orchestra experience even more robust and diverse.
With Middle School came new musical opportunities. I looked forward to our regular school concerts, as well as to special experiences such as the annual Music in the Parks competition at Dorney Park. (We were particularly proud to have won Best Orchestra honors in our division for all three years that I was in Middle School, as well as to have won Best Overall Orchestra for two out of those three years!) Middle School also introduced us to membership in the Tri-M Music Honor Society, through which we bring music to Ranney as well as to the local community, through volunteer work and charitable events.
In Upper School, I am enjoying even more performing arts opportunities. In addition to being a member of the Upper School Orchestra and of Tri-M Music Honor Society, I am also a member of the Chamber Music Club and a volunteer assistant to Dr. Sobieski for the Lower School Orchestra. In addition, a memorable experience from ninth grade was playing in the pit orchestra for our Upper School musical, Carousel. It was so much fun for members of all areas of the Ranney Performing Arts Department to come together and present an incredible production, and I look forward to playing in the pit orchestra again during my junior and senior years.
By Middle School, cello had become a focus for me both inside and outside of school. Dr. Sobieski encouraged me to audition for the Central Jersey Music Educators’ Association’s New Jersey Region II Orchestra, and subsequently, for the New Jersey All-State Orchestra. I have been proud to represent Ranney at both the Region and All-State levels, both in Middle School and Upper School. Watch a video of Jacob playing with his quartet the third movement from Dmitri Shostakovich’s “String Quartet Number 3.”
And now I am at Interlochen, which is a dream come true. I auditioned in New York City over the winter of 2017 and was thrilled to have been accepted as one of 21 high school cellists. Interlochen is celebrating its 90th season this summer. Its mission is to “promote world friendship through the universal language of the arts.” I am here among artists from all 50 states, as well as more than over 40 different countries. Each day starts with a wakeup by bugle call (at 6:30 a.m.!), and my schedule includes more than seven hours of cello per day: three hours of orchestra rehearsal and two hours of string quartet rehearsal, plus individual practice time, sectional rehearsals, and weekly master classes and private lessons with distinguished faculty. In addition, every Sunday, we perform in concerts led by renowned guest conductors, and sometimes we are also joined by notable guest artists. I have been honored to be the principal cellist of the Interlochen Philharmonic, as well as to have earned a position in the cello section of the prestigious World Youth Symphony Orchestra. Our concerts reach a global audience as they are broadcasted around the world via livestream as well as regionally on Interlochen Public Radio. Even with such a rigorous and rewarding program, I still have time to enjoy recreation on and off campus, as well as to attend various performances and concerts.
There are banners at Interlochen which are emblazoned with the slogan “Art Lives Here.” Art also lives at Ranney School. Both places are environments where performing arts students are nurtured and inspired (and both places have dress codes!). I have found that both Interlochen and the Ranney Performing Arts Department are communities of artists who are supportive of one another – individuals who come together each day to create and share love for the arts, guided by incredible faculty. I am so grateful that Dr. Sobieski gave me the gift of music all those years ago. Today, she is not only my teacher and conductor, but she is my high school advisor, so she guides me both musically and academically through my years in the Upper School.
I will be returning home to New Jersey in just under a week. While I will miss being immersed in the artistic life of Interlochen, I am also excited to return to Ranney, my artistic home.