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It’s not every student who can say they spent the summer prior to their senior year having a life-changing experience – but for Mooseheart’s Aderinsola “Doyin” Akeju – that’s exactly what happened.
A saxophone player in Mooseheart’s band, Akeju spent six weeks this summer at the prestigious Interlochen Center For The Arts in Michigan finding new and exciting levels at which she could perform.
“When I got there, I thought I was going to do so badly,” Akeju said. “The first week, we had auditions and it was so overwhelming. But the third day was my birthday and I’d made friends and they had a surprise thing for me and the whole time went upward from there.”
Along the way, Akeju realized she belonged with the other very talented students other students at the camp, though it took a while.
“I think I didn’t realize it throughout the camp,” Akeju said. “I felt like the underdog throughout the camp because everyone else had more experience than me. It finally came to me in the final performance of the entire time at the camp.”
Akeju said she was playing with the camp’s orchestra in the final concert, performing Franz Liszt’s “Les Preludes” – the performance of which is an Interlochen tradition – and she had tears in her eyes.
“I was sitting next to one of my friends and I was like ‘I love you guys. I love playing with guys.’ I felt we were on the same level at that time,” Akeju said.
Akeju is the third Mooseheart student to attend Interlochen summer camp in Mooseheart Band Director Steve Schmidt’s tenure as band director. He said she earned her right to attend the prestigious camp, though it’s always a shock to go from the small-school atmosphere at Mooseheart to Interlochen, where students typically have extensive musical backgrounds.
Akeju came to Mooseheart in sixth grade with very limited musical knowledge and didn’t join the band until eighth grade. While she said she enjoyed playing the saxophone, she never realized her potential with the instrument until this summer.
“She got lots of positive feedback from her teachers, understanding that many of the students there have had private lessons from a young age and have had tremendous teachers – and (Akeju) hasn’t had any of that,” Schmidt said.
Akeju said she worked with a pair of instructors at Interlochen – Dr. Timothy McCallister from the University of Michigan and Zachary Shemon from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“I learned so much that I never thought I would learn. I feel I was lucky to have my eyes opened to the possibility of what’s out there. I got there and it was ‘how much do you want to learn?’” Akeju said.
Akeju also said she gained a new appreciation for Schmidt and what he brings to the Mooseheart band program.
“Over the summer, I saw him as a father figure – and (Mooseheart Executive Director Gary) Urwiler and everyone who would surround me and call me and make sure I was OK. I had a really great support system,” Akeju said.
Akeju said the saxophone figures in her future but she hasn’t figured where it will fit.
“It’s definitely become more of what I want to do. I want to do so many other things, but I will never want to stop playing,” she said.