All-State Alumnus brings OrchKids to Interlochen

For Dan Trahey (All-State 1992, 1995, tuba), “Interlochen is more than a summer memory. It’s a benchmark.”

Every year, he visits the Interlochen Bowl and reevaluates his artistic passion, making sure it’s greater than or equal to when he was at Camp. When Trahey makes his annual visit this summer, however, he won’t be by himself. He’ll be joined by ten eager first-time Interlochen Arts Camp students, who all have two definite commonalities: they are “OrchKids” and Trahey knows them well.

Trahey is the artistic director of OrchKids, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s year-round music program for pre-K through high school age students. Trahey has been with OrchKids since the orchestra’s music director, Marin Alsop, founded the program in 2008. Now in 2015, OrchKids benefits nearly 825 inner-city children at five Title I public schools in West and East Baltimore. The program will increase to more than 1,000 students and six sites this fall.

OrchKids, along with community partners like the Baltimore City Public Schools, provides instruments, academic instruction, music education, daily meals, and mentorship and performance opportunities. It is both a social program and music program, with a mission that shifts depending on the community’s needs. “While OrchKids teaches students about the arts, it also prolongs the innocence of childhood, as it occupies students during the unstructured and often unsupervised after school hours—the most dangerous time of the day,” Trahey said.

Through OrchKids, Trahey oversees an extensive program with several key elements: mentoring, a multigenre approach, beginning young, consistency, and performance-oriented curriculum. Once children learn a technique, they teach their peers the new skill.

While the program is rooted in classical music—which lends itself well to ensemble playing—students explore other styles, including Latin American music, hip-hop and Klezmer music. In doing so, students learn to improvise and compose in various styles.

The OrchKids’ accomplishments are many. They have performed at the Kennedy Center and the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and have toured 10 states. They have performed with Renee Fleming, Roger Waters, Hilary Hahn, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Pink Martini. OrchKids has been featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” on PBS and in The New York Times. The program is also a recipient of the 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

This summer marks the first time OrchKids have attended Interlochen, opening a door for themselves and their peers, and enjoying a summer exploring their musical talents among fellow students from around the world.

Trahey, raised in Traverse City, understands the importance of this opportunity. “All-State was my first experience working with diverse students from another culture and race; it was my first exposure to diversity,” he said.

At Interlochen, he made career and personal connections and performed every week with three different ensembles and new repertoire—something that has prepared him well for his career in music. Trahey also appreciated Interlochen’s strong relationship with nature, which is more difficult to find in cities like Baltimore. Even after an intense practice session, he said he could explore the surrounding environment and recognize the greater context of his time at Camp.

Trahey said he has high hopes for the OrchKids after they attend Interlochen. He hopes their leadership skills improve and their individual playing and commitment to instruments become stronger. He also hopes they learn that people all over the world play the same instruments and that the OrchKids are not alone. And when they return to Baltimore, Trahey hopes they will become even stronger mentors to their fellow students.

Interlochen Admissions and Financial Aid Director Jerrod Price said Interlochen is the perfect place to realize such hopes. “Interlochen is a place where, whatever your social and cultural background, if you have the talent, you will find success. OrchKids have the talent and training,” Price said. “It is a joy to watch students from varied cultural backgrounds learn from each other and make each other better. Each will have valuable experiences to take home with them.”

Trahey, when asked whether he envisions bringing more students next summer, said he plans to bring a busload—plus another bus for their parents—so that parents can see their children play side by side with students from across the world.

Along with OrchKids, Dan Trahey works at the Peabody Institute in Music Teacher Mentoring and Tuba and as the Tuned-In Director. He also teaches in Traverse City each summer as co-Founder of The Archipelago Project.

Funding for these students’ scholarships is generously supported by donors through the Interlochen Annual Fund. Please visit to learn more about ways to contribute to programs at ICA.

—By Kathleen Fallon, Charitable Giving Associate
Interlochen Center for the Arts