Supporting the place that matters the most

  • The Bankoff and Chalifour Practice Room in the new Music Center: Mary & Peter Bankoff, left, with Nancy Chaliour, right, May 2019.

  • Peter playing as part of the Music Center dedication, May 2019.

  • Martin Chalifour with the 2019 Interlochen Arts Camp Los Angeles Violin Scholars, supported by philanthropists Jerry and Terri Kohl.

  • Peter Bankoff, 1961 (far right, seated on bench).

  • Nancy (Bankoff) Chalifour, standing far right, 1963.

  • Nancy (Bankoff) Chalifour, 1963.

Siblings Nancy and Peter Bankoff arrived at Interlochen young: Peter stepped off the train and into an open-air bus taking him to Camp at age ten, and Nancy would arrive a couple years later as an eight-year-old.

They certainly could not have anticipated the influence Interlochen would have on their lives, nor the influence they would have on Interlochen.

Peter (IAC 61-64, IAA 65-69; IAC St 69, 73) would find his love of jazz and the love of his life. His love of jazz started with Academy instructor David Sporny (IAA Fac 66-82). Their relationship would eventually lead to the founding of the Studio Orchestra, Interlochen’s first jazz ensemble.

When Peter returned in 1973 as Camp faculty, he would find his future wife, Mary Norman, during a faculty meet-and-greet. Mary and Peter soon started dating—although Mary was wary about a young woman who was always hanging around Peter. She soon learned it was Peter’s little sister, Nancy. Today, they all chuckle about the memory.

Nancy (IAC 63-64, 68-69; IAA 69-72; IAC St. 73) found her love of the arts and eventually, the bassoon. She began Camp as a junior, exploring various instruments including piano. Early on, she struggled with homesickness. “The only reason I got through it was by seeing Peter every day after rest hour,” she said. She returned in 1968 and was encouraged to try bassoon since there were already so many flute players.

They would grow up at Interlochen Camp and Academy through the 1960s and early 1970s—their lives etched with life-changing experiences and lifelong memories.

They remember extraordinary teachers, like Scott Dean, Jack Hood, Howard Hintze, and Chuck Eilber; and tours to Chicago’s Orchestra Hall in 1965, New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1966, Montreal’s World’s Fair in 1967, and Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center in 1972.

They also remember the formal, family-style dinners served on Sundays; the privilege of shaking Joe Maddy’s hand; playing with legendary jazz musician Dave Brubeck; the somber atmosphere when Dr. Maddy passed; popular husband-wife resident advisors Ken (“Uncle Ken”) and Mary Jewell; and the 1969 moon landing.

Today, Peter is a newly retired Phoenix-area anesthesiologist, and still plays jazz piano. Nancy’s love of the arts led to a career in arts management and administration. She worked for the Atlanta Symphony, where she met her future husband, violinist Martin Chalifour. They would move on to the Cleveland Orchestra and eventually to Los Angeles, where Martin is currently Principal Concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The importance of Interlochen on each Bankoff has naturally led to supporting the place they love.

Nancy served 16 years as an Interlochen trustee (1994-2010). She is joined in her support today by Martin and their mutual friend, Margaret Batjer, Concertmaster of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Both Martin and Margaret have served as Valade Concertmasters for the World Youth Symphony Orchestra at Interlochen Arts Camp. They have also been instrumental in recruiting exceptional violinists through the Los Angeles Violin Scholarship program, supported by philanthropists Jerry and Terri Kohl. Over the last two summers, 15 violinists have attended Camp through that program.

Peter and Nancy returned last May to join the finale celebration of CREATE AMAZING: The Campaign for Interlochen. They toured the practice room in the new Music Center named in recognition of their support, and Peter joined the celebration as part of an alumni jazz combo that performed during the dedication.

When asked why they support Interlochen, each paused, maybe because they could not imagine why they would not support a place that is so integral to their lives.

“Our support is based on the lifelong experiences we had here—the memories, the friendships,” Peter said. “Our philanthropy enables other kids to have the same experiences we had, other kids who might not otherwise be able to.”

“At the end of the day, Interlochen is the one place that matters the most,” Nancy added.

Today, thanks to the Bankoffs and Chalifours, Interlochen will continue to be the “place that matters the most” to new generations of students seeking their future in the arts.