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Anyone have experience with Blue Lake Camp in MI


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Hi Danielle--


friendliness/cliquishness-- The cabin assignments include kids from a variety of majors. Dd went by herself (some kids come with friends from home) and found the girls to be outgoing and friendly. Interestingly, she found it to be much less cliqueish than the large Christian camp she has attended for a number of years. :0


quality of instruction-- The teachers are knowledgeable and accustomed to working with kids. Flute players are assigned to a band or orchestra, and nearly all of the instruction is focused on that experience (sectional rehearsals, etc.) There were no lessons/masterclasses, if that's what you're used to. I don't know anything about how it works for harp, but I would trust the website as to the program, and I would trust the teachers to be good This camp is not Interlochen, and the teachers tend to have a connection to a quality public school music program. They are not university professors.


good minors-- My dd chose art, and it was a wonderful minor. The main project was creating a print (the camp has decent facilities), beginning with concept, sketch, etching, and finally printing. The results were good. I did see a lot of the artwork on the final day, and I was impressed. The teachers seemed to be able to get a lot out of the kids. My dd enjoyed it a lot.


level of expertise of the other kids-- I can speak to the winds, brass, percussion, strings, but I don't know if it will be relevant to harp. The kids tend to come out of MI public school band and orchestra programs. The camp offers scholarship auditions at a number of MI schools, and I think the band/orchestra directors encourage students to go. I think that many have probably not had private lessons. There are some very good players, though. There were four bands, placement was by audition on the first day, and my dd played in the concert band (the top band). It was an adequate musical challenge, and the final concert was quite good. Harp may be very different since it's not a public school instrument.


would your dd go back-- My dd has chosen to audition for a more competitive camp this summer. Dd is a fairly serious music student. Throughout the year, she plays in chamber ensembles and really enjoys being in quartets with string players. Her main reason for attending a music camp this summer would be to improve her playing (through masterclasses) and to work with chamber musicians. Her current goals don't fit Blue Lake's focus.


best and worst aspects-- Dd has said repeatedly that Blue Lake is a fun summer camp. She liked the "campy" aspects of it--the friendships and activities. She has also said that for her, the worst aspect was the music part--she's just not a band kind of girl. The problem wasn't quality, the problem was fit.


worth the money-- For us, this camp was worth the money. We chose it because it was dd's first residential music camp, and she didn't know if she'd like it. It was only two weeks long (others were typically 3-4 weeks), and it was considerably less expensive than the more competitive camps. Dd had fun, met some nice kids, discovered that she doesn't like band, and played her flute a lot during the two weeks. She decided that she likes music camp enough to audition for a more competitive camp. Music is a major part of my kids' lives, and we spend quite a bit on music enrichment activities (mainly chamber music) throughout the year. We found Blue Lake to be reasonable in cost compared to the other activities we do. BTW, it is my impression that Blue Lake has quite a bit of scholarship money available. Ask if your dd can audition for one!


I hope this helps!



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If your dd does go to Blue Lake, send along a case of water bottles, because the water tastes a little strange. Everyone keeps them under their beds. My dd adds the following--1. There's a dance near the end. Although the kids wear their uniforms, they're allowed to wear jewelry and accessories to the dance. 2. There's a carnival where you can wear whatever you want, so feel free to bring an outfit that you like. 3. Bring a bag for your stand and music--you will have to carry it with you during the day.


I would be happy to give you my dd's gently used uniform shirts (3) and uniform sweater if you're interested. They stay the same from year to year. Send me a private message if you'd like these.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Ok-the Lake was pretty Blue but I spent almost zero time in it! Of course I went to BL back in the last century, a bit to uncomfortably back in the last century. I had a great time! And nearly 30 years later (ouch that hurt to write) have great memories. The emphasis then was on music/theater/dance not camping. I always came home with bug bites and dirt ground into my ankles. It was great to be with other kids who loved music. Where else can you find a whole camp full of kids doing their own improvisations on music? When we would attend concerts the campers didn't just clap they clapped in alternating rythems to show appreciation. We sang grace before every meal in a cappala harmony (if you were late you sang for the whole dining hall). I can't speak to the current atmosphere and conditions but it was a great time!

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Hi - This is a submission from a family member of mine who works at Blue Lake. She made an effort to get to this during exams so I'm posting the whole huge thing! :)

about BLFAC:

As a cabin counselor/lifeguard for two summers, here is what I see:

Friendliness is excellent for the most part- especially in the middle

school sessions. In the high school sessions the main "cliqueishness"

problem comes from a whole group of kids who already know each other

showing up the same session- but usually there are not a lot of clique

problems that affect most campers.


Quality of instruction is a little varied- there is a pretty good standard,

but one of Blue Lake's main emphasis is the community aspect of fine arts

rather than the competitive aspect, so if camper is already really talented

and wants somebody to "push" them, Blue Lake is not the best place- there

are lots of more competitive, higher-caliber camps out there with more

renowned conductors and instructors. That being said,

I know a lot of my campers learned a lot from their technique and sectional



The minors system is new, before it was an "elective" that was more

optional than the "minors" system. I helped teach a fiddle elective, and

that was pretty cool. I know a lot of kids REALLY enjoy the theater

elective, or the jazz elective if they are a bandie. I also helped teach a

music theory elective section- that option I would only reccommend if the

camper has an avid interest in music theory- we try to play games and liven

it up, but at the end of the day, it's an hour of classroom time talking

about chords, and I think that some of the kids didn't know what they were

getting themselves into...


Kids' expertise varies a lot- from barely reading notes to better

performance levels than some of the counselors. (Not quite sure how this

translates into dance/art/theater but I know that there is a range of

levels there, too.) No matter where they are placed, they will be busy,

have something to do, learn something, and have a lot of fun (except for

the few who come to camp unbearably homesick and refuse to actually

participate- but that is maybe 1 out of a hundred- less in the high school



I plan to go back as a Unit Director this next year. I love Blue Lake- my

favorite part of it is the whole

total-music-immersion-in-the-middle-of-the-woods experience. The worst

aspect is probably the tight ruled system that is how the camp is run- lots

of rules and regs, not a whole lot of freedom for campers or counselors,

but necessary for state certification of safety for the thousands of

campers that come through there.


The camp is expensive- I don't know quite how much, being a counselor, not

a camper. I don't know if it is "worth it" or not from that perspective.

(I do know that there are some scholarships available?) There are concerts

and activities every night, recreation time with games in the field and

open swim time at the pool every day, lots of games in the units and cabin,

and lots of instruction and rehearsal and performance time. I would say

that it is probably worth it as long as the camper is enthousiastic about

going, and knows what will be happening.


Some of the things to keep in mind about if the camp is right for you are:

- personal space is not very much. bathrooms are outside of the cabin in a

separate building, and usually crowded ( but with flush toilets!)

-uniform regulations, PDA rules, camp boundaries and attendance policies

are VERY strict (we say Be Where You're Supposed To Be When You're Supposed

To Be There a million times every session. If the kid is okay with really

engaging with the rest of the unit and the cabin and being a "team player"-

then this will not be a problem because there are things to do every minute

of the day. However, if the camper is a total non-conformist individual

this can be a very difficult for them. It's nearly impossible to be

actually alone at camp most days.

-the food is grade school-style cafeteria food. not very good. chicken

nuggets, macaroni and cheese, "turkey" sandwiches, etc. but there is always

peanut butter sandwich makings and salad if the main thing doesn't look

appetizing. (and there is a vegetarian option- but you have to choose

Veggie or Non-Veggie for the entire session)

-the concerts are long and often a large classical ensemble. this can be

really exciting for us music nerds when there is a pro group or an

international youth orchestra or something, but some kids really can't

handle a long concert at the end of a long day. of course, other nights

are things like talent shows, all-camp-sings, the camper dance, or going to

an ballet, and those usually draw more interest- but there will be some

long classical concerts to sit through at some point (good ones, though!)

- camp is during hot weather, and the most common first aid complaint is

heat exhaustion because campers don't like water that tastes different than

their water at home. (I personally don't mind the water, but a lot of

people say that "camp water tastes bad" no matter which of the three water

systems they are getting their water from.) This can be easily solved by

packets of Crystal Lite or a flat of bottled water, or just plain ignoring

the fact that it tastes different that your water at home, and also some

campers have no problem adjusting to it, but this is something to be aware

of, because counselors are supposed to make them drink at least some water

every day, which traumatizes some kids who really don't like it.

- Camp is 2/3 girls. I don't know why this matters, because they are only

there for 12 days, but one of the most common complaints on girl-camper

comment cards is: "get more boys!".

- Wakeup call is early, and bedtimes are fairly strict (although they vary

from night to night) so it is necessary to be able to adjust to a different

sleep schedule.

- Camp is in the woods. Campers have to go outside at night to use the

bathrooms (there is a lamp- so it isn't completely dark, and the bathroom

is just a few yards away from the cabin, but if there is a large

fear-of-the-dark factor, an extra flashlight or a stuffed animal or

whatever works shoudl be discussed. Also, it being in the woods, there are

bugs once in a while, and squirrels, and frogs near the lake, and clothes

get really dirty (counselors do laundry every other day, but just camp

clothes- so you have to bring enough underwear and socks to last 12 days or

wash them in the sink)

- Seasonal allergies and asthma can be very aggravated at camp, but as long

as your regular medications are with you, everyone should be able to deal.

There is a well-staffed Health Lodge, lifeguards and first-aid-certified

people in every unit, procedures for doing daily medications and as-needed

meds, well-stocked first aid kits and locked med cabinets in every unit,

etc etc etc. But camp is dusty, so inhalers/throat drops/other meds should

be ready to go for campers with allergies/asthma and other breathing


-The lake is polluted and not used for swimming, but there are two camper

pools to swim in for Rec time and during Elective hour if you don't have a

minor. (We usually put games in one and free-swimming in the other)

- Camp is really busy- if your camper gets tired easily or likes some time

on their own, you might want to consider not having a minor or elective,

and give them that hour to read/write/hang out in their unit or on main

camp or go for a swim. However, if they are easily bored (especially with

recreation-type of things,) a minor is a great idea, so you don't end up

with two rec periods during the day.

- All campers' stuff is under the bunk the whole time. While no one but

that cabin's campers can get in there, those campers can go in there all of

the time, and while there is always a counselor within a few yards, there

is not always one in the cabin during passing periods or during a class

period. Thefts are not a huge problem, but once in a while things get mixed

up with other campers' things, or things get lost. Organizational measures

such as labeling all belongings (especially clothes), having a suitcase

with separate compartments or a tupperware box that will fit under the bunk

neatly really help.

- Phone calls home are not allowed except for extreme circumstances,

because phone lines are limited and this usually aggravates homesickness.

There will always be phone calls made to you about any unusual situations

arising about your camper (whether it's a bout of heat exhaustion or a

break of camp rules) but they are not allowed to call you, and cell phones

are banned on camp. Most campers are so busy that this really doesn't

matter for the 12 days, but for some, it's torture to not be able to call

home every day- you might want to talk this over with your camper, and put

some envelopes ready to mail home in with their stuff.

- Electronics break at camp because of the dust. iPods and CD players are

not expressly forbidden (as long as they stay in the cabin- but the dust

gets in everything- I went through 3 alarm clocks one summer due to

dust-induced collapse. Leave them at home if you possibly can- it's really

upsetting when they break at camp.

Okay, hope that helps!

(I get really excited about camp and talk a lot about it- sorry for the


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I really appreciate the extensive info! We haven't really investigated other music camps except Interlochen, and after buying the $14,000 harp in January, there's no way I can come up with the ^$6,000 for Interlochen, so I'm afraid I'm not much help on other camps. Also, harp is a fairly weird instrument, so what might be good for harp might not be good for flute or violin.


Blue Lake was recommended to us by dd's harp teacher, and the harpist for Chicago's Lyric Opera (also a prof at Northwestern), so that seemed pretty positive. But you all have way more relevant info! Dd is signed up, but we haven't gotten conversation.


She'll be in the high school program, as she'd be going into 9th grade in the fall. Never been incommunicado before--I hope I survive! Still, I really want to give her this opportunity for complete independence. The classical is exactly what she wants--ideally, she'd go for 90% classical, 10% celtic, and signed up for the minor in music composition.


Thanks again for all the info--we were out of town for a couple of days, and out of commission for a couple more with horrendous bronchitis.


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