Help Keep Gracie at Interlochen Arts Academy!

For: Grace Smith
Wyandotte, MI
Organizer: Anna Smith
Help Keep Gracie at Interlochen Arts Academy! (Grace Smith)
of $10,500 goal
58% Complete
Raised by 97 donors
This fundraiser is closed. Thank you for your support!

The Story

Goal update: They have re-accepted her for her senior year for 2018-2019! We have updated the fundraiser goal to reflect the $1800 deposit due by April 10th, 2018 for next year plus the remaining tuition for this year. Please see our updates section to find out our most recent adventures and news!

Original description:

Prelude: [This fundraiser is about my daughter, about whom you will read in a second, but I wanted to begin by saying I am a woman who does not deserve the amazing people she has in her life. After posting our news on Facebook, I received several messages from people who want to do whatever they can to help Gracie reach her goal. I am so humbled that I am surrounded by such kind, generous, and supportive people who support me and my children in their goals and dreams. It is because of these amazing people and their insistence that I am setting up this page to tell our story and to give people a way in which to donate if they so wish. This is a very large undertaking and I feel it is one that is my responsibility to figure out as her parent. It is only because people actively want to help and because this is such a rare opportunity for a chance few are offered that I am swallowing my pride and making this public. Thank you to everyone who has ever supported us in any way. Without our tribe we would not be where we are today, whether or not she attends the academy. All my love to you all!]  

So, what's this all about anyway?  One year ago Gracie was on an adventure I was sure we would never top. She auditioned for and was accepted into the six-week orchestra program at Interlochen Arts Camp. It was an amazing experience and one she enjoyed every minute she was there. She learned a tremendous amount and the experience was one she was so very grateful to be able to participate in. At that point she had been studying cello with a private teacher for just a hair under two years. In the cello world (and probably the music world in general) that is very late and requires a lot of ground to make up.  

After raising the funds herself to attend her high school music department's trip to New York City, she returned inspired and asked if we could simply complete the application for admission to Interlochen Arts Academy, the boarding arts high school. I saw no reason to not apply. When you never ask, the answer is always no. If it didn't work out, it would not mean the end of her musical career. However, it did mean, if she were to be admitted, that she could focus on her music and academics in a way she can't quite here and would allow her to focus entirely on preparing for the next steps in her journey.  Yesterday we got the news that she was accepted. 

We have until Monday, August 7th, to secure her spot.  

[Before anyone gets too excited this isn't yet a thing. It may not end up being a thing. They offered her a wildly generous scholarship but it's still about $6k more than we could take on to do this in tuition alone. Books, fees, travel, and the required purchase of a Macbook for use with music software means another $2500 or so. It's amazing how close you can be to a dream yet still be just out of reach.]

She's over the moon that she was accepted to begin with and we are proud beyond measure. That in and of itself is a great honor. It's a rare opportunity. She wanted to give applying a shot fully knowing that it might not happen because that's how life works sometimes. Her ability to accept that reality so maturely and without entitlement, grateful that she could even make the attempt, blows me away.

If this doesn't happen then so be it. No one dies and she remains involved in excellent ensembles, has an excellent teacher both at school and privately, goes to a fine school that gives her academic opportunities to challenge her and extracurricular activities that enrich her experience. We are more than blessed no matter what and for that we are tremendously grateful. I'm not going down without a fight but to have this type of "problem" is the type of problem I'd prefer in life.  If we can not make our goal, any funds collected will be placed in a separate account to be used only to send Gracie to Interlochen Arts Camp next summer. All funds are for Interlochen-related things only.

Wish me luck as I throw that Hail Mary pass.

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on March 11, 2018


Posted on March 11, 2018

So, here we go again. I can't believe that we're headed into March and looking at spring break and then, soon enough, the end of quite a whirlwind of a year. I wasn't aware until a bit into the year but enrollment from year to year is not guaranteed. Yesterday was the day everyone found out whether or not they are invited to return next year and also get that other letter, that ticks like a bomb in the background, telling you how much financial aid you were awarded. 

I've said this several times before and I will continue to say it -- thank you to everyone who has supported her in this adventure. It's not overstating it when I say that she takes your support very seriously and every day, with everything she does, she does it knowing that it's because of so many that she's able to be there and that anything less than her best is disrespectful to those who have been so generous.

This year has been full of many lessons and transitions. There has been a lot of growth and development both in ways you would expect as well as in ways we could have never predicted. Her schedule has been packed. She has what there is considered an academically heavy load given she's an instrumental music major and with that comes additional hours of practice and performance. Six academic classes plus her arts block make for hectic,  long days. 

The smaller class sizes have made a tremendous difference in her learning in math and science. They used to be two areas in which she struggled, often due to distractions and class sizes. She had been wholly convinced she was not a "math person" and fell into the trap many of us have of that fixed mindset. She found out that there's no such thing. She simply learns differently and when the environment is one where she can focus and remain engaged, it makes a world of difference. Guess who now has a 100% in math and proved herself wrong. She's been doing well academically and considering being so far away from home at her age, I'm very proud of how well she's handled the transition and increase in expectations.

She's also been developing well as a musician. Being surrounded by kids who have been playing since they were three and four is both humbling and inspiring. What's lovely about her section is that they are supportive of each other and cheer each other on in their growth and successes. It's comforting to know that her peers are as supportive as her teachers. 

One really proud moment was some great feedback she received from her orchestra conductor. He is an incredibly talented man who is kind but honest when it comes to his assessments. He's passionate about his work and cares a great deal about the quality of the work of the students. I appreciate that about him. There's no growth to be had without honest, constructive criticism and high expectations. This past concert she received the highest grade he gives and was told she's been a real leader in her section, advancing past some of her peers, and that he has been impressed by her progress. He knows she's working hard and having to make up for time others have on her from years of serious study. He told her she's always prepared, can tell she practices and studies her pieces, and that it's showing in her solo work as well. From him that is very high praise he doesn't hand out easily and she felt very good about it and I think she should be proud. 

This isn't easy material. And it's material she has to learn on top of her chamber pieces and the solo work she's preparing for summer program auditions and, believe it or not, in preparation for prescreen auditions in the fall and live auditions a bit less than a year from now. Not to mention her senior recital. My spreadsheet game has become strong, with research on schools, lists of repertoire, achievements, information for resumes and bios, and everything you can think of that you need to know to prepare for applications. SATs and ACTs are scheduled, prep ongoing, community service hours to maintain, and every once in a while, a bit of a break, hitting Traverse City with friends to decompress and be normal teenagers for a few hours a week. 

She's coming home next Friday for two weeks for spring break. It reminds me of when I visited her after four weeks of her being at camp. I knew then that if she was still enthusiastic about the experience then it was something she was going to take seriously and give it all she has. We've had milestone moments like that along the way where we check in and talk before we move on to the next big step. This will be another one of those moments. Although, I'm pretty sure I know how it's going to go based on a conversation we had earlier in the week. We were discussing some things and admittedly, being so far and disconnected versus seeing her daily before, I was feeling frustrated. It's a lot harder to gauge where things are when you aren't sitting there for the lessons or spending hours in the car having conversations. I was tired and she was tired. I was stressed and she was stressed. I was feeling disconnected and she was up to her eyeballs in obligations and missing home. I felt like I lacked much of the information that I needed to help me frame where we were and what I needed to know to plan things I needed to plan. We don't get to talk that often and when we do, it's quick texts. It's certainly not how it used to be. Feeling frustrated and tired and overwhelmed, I bluntly asked her, "Is this something we should keep doing?" Her answer was a solid and complete yes. Not one second of hesitation.

Why does it remind me of when I visited her after four weeks at camp? Well, to begin with, at camp she started her days at 6:30am with reveille immediately followed by PT. When you're 15 and in no way a morning person, four weeks of that when it's summer break has got to get old. There were cabin chores and hours upon hours of practice, rehearsal, and performances. Yes it was camp but it wasn't the type of camp where you spent your day doing nothing but swimming, doing crafts, and hiking. Not that they didn't do that as well, but it was less a vacation away than it was six weeks of constant orchestra rehearsal with days that were as long as they were while she was in school. I knew that if after four weeks she wasn't totally over it and was still enthusiastic about the experience then she truly loved the music and the work that came with it. It was always something I insisted that she want and not something she did to please me or because it would look good on a college application. I saw far too much of that and I knew enough to know that if you really loved the music (or anything, really), it was inside of you and that is what pushes you. I knew that if she wanted to do this on a grander scale, being over it at that point would not bode well since that path would only get harder. So when I asked if this was something we should continue and she answered without hesitation, despite the months of missing her family, the hours and hours of work, the stress of keeping up grades while practicing and being prepared for performances, the cafeteria food, the mountains of snow, and everything else you'd not blame a kid for not wanting to continue, that told me what I needed to know. 

We'll talk when she gets home but I already know that this is something she is going to want to see through until the end. Not everyone does. She's known kids who have decided that by Thanksgiving it just wasn't a good fit. No one judges those kids. Not anyone raised with empathy anyway. This isn't for everyone and that doesn't define a person. It simply means that they tried and found out that their path would lead them elsewhere. And that path may not be easier as far as effort and expectation but perhaps a better fit being closer to home. There's no shame in that. I give those kids a lot of credit for trying. In fact, that's something I find more impressive than being the best. I have so much respect for those that try and keep trying. I also have tremendous respect for those who try and realize something isn't working and their resiliency allows them to adjust that path. Sometimes knowing when to admit something isn't working for you and figuring out an alternative is very hard. People feel as if it's a failure. It's not. Failing is when we stop trying or when we force ourselves onto a path that wasn't meant for us. It takes a great deal of wisdom and courage to assess where you are, weigh your options, and know when to readjust the plan. It's okay. 

If anyone who has read this far has ever found themselves in a situation where they realized it wasn't working and changed their path, I hope you've never considered yourself a failure because of it. Forcing yourself to do something that isn't a good fit for you is failing yourself. Going another way and making another plan is simply that. And when we speak of plans, know that life has a funny way of forcing you to adjust what you thought would be anyhow. They say God laughs at plans. That's not to say we shouldn't have goals or an idea of what we want to do; it's simply that we have to do it with the understanding that it doesn't always end up exactly how we think we want it. Schools will be applied to, auditions will be held, practicing will happen, hopes and dreams will get so close you will feel as if you could touch them. Have you been kind? Have you tried your best? Have you done anything to make a positive impact on the world around you? If you can answer yes, then you've done what you can do. Maybe you get into your second or third choice of schools. Maybe you decide that dance or theater or voice won't be your primary focus in college after all. Maybe that plan you had carefully crafted in your head or maybe on paper just doesn't quite unfold the way you had hoped. It will be okay. 

There are times when you will wonder if you should keep going. You will get tired, frustrated, and see the competition that surrounds you and you will wonder if all that work will amount to anything. The thing is, it already has. And moving forward you will have to find the right fit for you, focusing on constantly improving rather than comparing yourself to those whose journey has been different. 

Anyhow, this has turned into a graduation speech more than an update. If anyone found anything inspiring about it, I'm glad. If not, hey, you're a masochist for reading this far. ;P

What now? Well, a month from now is the deadline to officially re-enroll and pay the deposit to hold her spot. If you feel generous and wouldn't mind sharing our link, we would appreciate it. We're still fundraising. I have what seems to be a promising lead on a good job but that is still in limbo for at least a month. When I say that the universe has its own plan for us, I know it from experience. But she's doing well and continues to develop academically, musically, and personally, so to all who have helped, please know that your generosity has not been wasted. And know that every last dime has gone to nothing but Grace and her tuition. We're going to keep fighting to keep this alive and we appreciate your help in spreading her story and helping us prove that there are still good people in the world and positive stories to share. You've helped make this world a better place in a time when we wonder if that's still possible. You've proved it is. Thank you.

Posted on March 10, 2018

Posted on March 10, 2018

Hi everyone, we have reached 25% of the goal! We're so amazed by everyone's support. Please share this fundraiser with your family and friends to keep up the momentum.

Posted on January 21, 2018


Posted on January 21, 2018

I’m still up in the middle of the night because I’m engrossed in the biography of Joseph Maddy and it’s actually really good. It’s also extra interesting given it was published in 1963 so it was being written right before the Academy opened its doors in 1962, 50 years ago. There’s nothing much in the book about the Academy since when the book was being written, it was pretty much a hole in the ground. It’s mostly about Dr. Maddy’s childhood, the development of his career, and history of the camp. 

I’m finding he and I have a lot in common in regard to digging large proverbial holes for large dreams and then afterward figuring out how to fund those dreams. He was a master at writing letters and persuading people to believe in him and his vision to educate children in music. Somehow he’d find ways to pull it off through fundraising and people who believed in him, even in the depths of the Great Depression. It’s a bit more relatable after having completed the arduous task of filling out financial aid forms for next year. I’m pretty sure the FAFSA isn’t as detailed as I’ve been on this application. It’s taken me a few days to research facts and figures and finances. No financial detail has been left unexamined. 

Also fascinating is that the book I checked out from the local library has simply a plain cloth binding and has a stamp in it that they received their copy in January of 1964. There’s still a cardstock envelope mounted on the back cover where the card that was stamped when you checked the book out was kept and it’s in pristine condition. I’m probably the second person to check it out of the library ever. Anything affixed to the book except for the barcode sticker was typed on by hand on a typewriter. It’s a wonderful relic and the smell of an old book is really unmatchable. 

Thank you to those who have recently donated. Be assured every dime goes straight to her tuition and is greatly appreciated. You are all a reminder of the good that remains in the world. Thank you for your continued support. Let’s fight on to get her through this year and then back there to graduate next year! 

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