Advocating for Interlochen in the Windy City

  • Malcolm (far left) and Kasey (far right) Muhammad with other volunteers at a Chicago engagement event.

Malcolm and Kasey Muhammad are very active volunteers for Interlochen. But you won’t find them passing programs in Corson, sewing costumes in Harvey or serving breakfast in Stone.

Instead, the Muhammads serve Interlochen from their own hometown of Chicago, Illinois. As engagement volunteers, the Muhammads are ambassadors for Interlochen at off-campus events.

Neither Malcolm nor Kasey ever attended Interlochen: Their connection to Interlochen is through their son, Thelonius, who just completed his junior year as a voice major at Interlochen Arts Academy. Almost from the moment Thelonius arrived for his freshman year at the Academy, the Muhammads noticed the positive impact the school had on their son.

“We recognized very early on the value in Interlochen and wanted to help bring more attention to the program within our own community,” said Kasey. “Our home community has a plethora of gifted and talented children, but the lack of resources makes it incredibly difficult for their talent to be recognized and cultivated. So exposure to a program like Interlochen would drastically change the child's world perspective and outlook.”

Inspired, the Muhammads started looking for ways to share Interlochen with others. They soon became engagement volunteers.

In their role as engagement volunteers, the Muhammads promote and attend many of Interlochen’s local and regional events, such as the informational “Discover Interlochen” events and the regional auditions in Chicago. At these events, the Muhammads help with greeting and sign-in, and also speak on informational parent panels. They also attend other Interlochen-related events in their area, such as alumni recitals and performances, and volunteer on the Engagement Council.

The Muhammads also serve as digital ambassadors. Both Malcolm and Kasey make an appearance in the “A Parent’s Perspective” video for Interlochen Arts Academy, in which they address many of the fears and concerns raised by prospective parents. They also speak with prospective parents one-on-one as Admission Callers.

After several years as engagement ambassadors, the Muhammads are starting to see their work pay off. Some of the students they have spoken to at informational and audition events have made their way to Interlochen Arts Academy—including one of Thelonius’s voice classmates.

The arts are not the only extracurricular activities the Muhammads support: They also run their own foundation, which provides mentoring and teaching in the sport of fencing. Their foundation reflects their belief that the arts and athletics are crucial aspects of a holistic education.

The Muhammads’ daughter is currently the foil squad captain at Temple University. But when she first picked up the sport, the Muhammads quickly realized the scarcity of resources for fencers.

“Our experience in getting her to that point was the impetus behind starting the foundation,” Kasey said. “Unfortunately, lack of resources in our community made our daughter’s journey to Division 1 sports quite difficult. We recognized that other children in the community should have the same opportunity, so we created a foundation to provide academic and athletic mentorship for other aspiring student-athletes.”

When not promoting music or fencing, both Muhammads have hobbies of their own. Malcolm is an avid golfer. Kasey is a writer, with several hundred pages of her fantasy novel currently written. Both also make time to support their children by visiting their respective schools for parent weekends and attending their concerts, matches and events.

There are countless opportunities for alumni, parents and friends to remain connected and become more involved with Interlochen, regardless of location. Engagement volunteers like Malcolm and Kasey assist at one-time events like live auditions and fairs, call admitted families to answer questions and get them excited about their first Interlochen experience, distribute marketing materials, organize gatherings to meet other Interlochen friends where they live, and much, much more!

If you know how you'd like to get involved with Interlochen at home, or would like to brainstorm ideas with us, email us at engagement@interlochen.org.

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