News Column

Stars -- present and future -- align at Interlochen

July 17, 2014

By Allison Batdorff, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

July 17--Above, Jack Schneider, along with two Interlochen Arts Academy students, will open for Five for Fighting's symphony show on Saturday. All three singer/songwriters will showcase their original material. Schneider chose a song he felt was appropriate for the occasion -- "Music Makers.")

INTERLOCHEN -- Jack Schneider, 17, loaded up on big-name concert tickets during his session at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp. He'd heard that the school's Kresge Auditorium is an "intimate, great place" to see the world's best musicians.

Brief disappointment -- he sold his tickets because the concerts conflicted with camp-oriented commitments -- gave way to glee Tuesday when Schneider learned that he'd play Kresge -- his guitar, his songs -- in front of nearly 4,000 people.

Schneider, along with two other Interlochen Arts Academy students, will open for Five for Fighting's symphony show on Saturday.

"I still can't believe it," Schneider said. "It's more than any singer/songwriter could hope for."

Vladimir John Ondrasik III, otherwise known as Five for Fighting, is happy to share the marquis with young musicians; it pays it forward on his personal experience with tuneful toil, he said. The Grammy-nominated piano rocker added that he was one of those "20-year overnight success stories."

"I like to think I have some experience in the struggle to make a living as a singer/songwriter," Ondrasik laughed. "I know all about rejection."

Ondrasik, a California-born hockey nut -- Five for Fighting refers to a hockey penalty -- had two platinum albums, "America Town" and "The Battle for Everything" and several Billboard chart-toppers, including "Superman (It's Not Easy)," "The Riddle" and "100 Years." He writes songs for the Backstreet Boys and Josh Groban, and is a regular contributor to the L.A. Kings website. He is well-known for his philanthropic work with the USO and with the U.S. military, as well as prevention work and fundraising for organizations like the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Augie's Quest.

Cushioning the impact of performing arts funding cuts is another way he and fellow musicians can help out, he said. Opportunities like Saturday's Interlochen opener is a case in point.

"I get a lot of pleasure, especially as I get older, in working with the next generation of singer/songwriters," Ondrasik said. His daughter -- he lives with his wife and two children near Los Angeles -- attends a school similar to Interlochen, he said.

Ondrasik's pep talk for the young singers?

"As soon as you take that first step onstage, you've already won -- especially when you're performing in front of your peers," he said. "It takes a lot of courage to take that first step, but once you're there, enjoy it and have fun."

Madison Douglas, 17, and Lauren Jones, 18, will walk up together, as they plan to alternate songs and back each other up during their 15-minutes of fame.

Douglas keeps running through the scene in her head, she said.

"I think, like, 'Am I going be able carry myself professionally in front of a crowd this big?' but as soon as I touch my instruments, that feeling goes away."

Schneider, Jones and Douglas will all play acoustic guitar and sing their original songs. Douglas and Jones will additionally play cajon.

All Interlochen performers are encouraged to interact with students -- some host master classes and Q-and-A style sessions on the business; others invite students onstage, like Five for Fighting, said Christopher Gruits, executive director of Interlochen Presents. On Saturday it will be an interactive double-feature: while student singer-songwriters open for Five for Fighting on the Kresge Auditorium, student string musicians will join the world-famous Cavani String Quartet in the Dendrinos Chapel and Recital Hall.

"The stars are aligning at InterlochenJuly 19," Gruits said.

Visit for ticket information.


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Source: Record-Eagle, The (Traverse City, MI)

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