Fall 2009

Featured Alumnus:  John Littlejohn

Delta, British Columbia, Canada


Blue Lake affiliation:  Camper, 1992-1993; IYSO, 1994-1997; International String Orchestra (soloist and staff), 2003; Faculty, 2005

Major:  Violin

A dizzying variety of styles and genres exist in the current musical scene.  In popular music, the lines between rock, soul, country and western, jazz, and the many other sub-genres often blur and new styles are born, seemingly every week.  Classical music, too, is reflecting this trend, as a new generation of musicians and composers with a variety of musical influences reaches maturity.

John Littlejohn—a Michigan native from the Lansing and Midland areas now living in Vancouver, British Columbia—is making a career out of just such a melding of styles.  A violinist and composer, John’s music blends classical, hip-hop, Middle-Eastern, jazz, gospel, and Latin influences into a style he calls “Blaze.”  He has adopted the hip-hop moniker “A.d.i.d.a.m.,” which stands for “All day I dream about music.”  While continuing a career as an orchestral and solo violinist in the classical genre, he is also a member of Infinitus, a string trio, and Psalm Fresh, a quintet.  Both groups play in the blended style that Littlejohn has mastered.  In addition, he is active as an arts educator and recently founded the Thrive City String Academy, a summer music program for inner-city students.

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The Legendary Blue Lake Monster: an Extraordinary Band
The Monster is the mid-1980s, including Tim Froncek (with cymbal), Richard Goldsworthy (below Froncek), Dr. George West (front row, 3rd from left), and Tom Stansell (front row, far right)

Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp’s jazz program has a history nearly as long as the camp itself. During the 2009 season, the program, under the direction of talented percussionist and jazz educator Tim Froncek, continued to thrive. There were three student bands each session, each directed by expert educators who are also top-notch performers. The camp also presented its 27th Annual Jazz Festival, with performances by Blue Lake’s faculty and staff ensembles, as well as the Homecoming Concert of the International Jazz Ensemble. In May, the Faculty Jazz Quintet gave several concerts in France as a part of the International Exchange Program.

In the very first season of 1966, Founder and President Fritz Stansell directed a jazz big band, with students predominantly recruited from jazz programs he had started in schools in the Muskegon area. As Mr. Stansell relates in his book, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp: the Early Years, that first band was, for the most part, focused and attentive while rehearsing and performing, but full of behavior problems elsewhere on camp. Jazz was not a part of the curriculum again until 1971, when Dr. George West became the program’s director. Since that time, jazz has been a fixture at Blue Lake and many of the program’s alumni have gone on to notable careers in jazz performance and education.

From 1983 to 2004, the most visible symbol of the strength of the jazz program was the legendary Blue Lake Monster, a big band of jazz faculty and staff that performed annually at camp and in locations around West Michigan. Tim Froncek says that, despite the fact that the band was reconstituted each season, many of the core players remained in the group from one year to the next and the group’s quality was always high.

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Blue Lake Set To Break Ground On Shakespearean Theater

Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, credited by Governor Jennifer Granholm earlier this year as “the largest provider of arts education to Michigan Children and Youth,” will launch a new Shakespeare program in its 2010 summer season. In addition to offering a Shakespeare major, the program will ensure that each of the more than 5,300 students attending Blue Lake will be exposed to a live Shakespeare presentation while at camp.

At the heart of the program is construction of a 600 seat Elizabethan theater, designed by Muskegon architect Dick Borgeson. Borgeson and Blue Lake Management Committee Member Andy Dagen, have been developing plans for the construction project for more than 2 years.

According to Borgeson, “This is a once in a lifetime program for an architect to work on with such historical significance. It is great to have a group of dedicated people at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp who not only understand the historic nature of this project, but are willing to do everything possible to maintain its pure architectural value. I appreciate the opportunity to be part of this prestigious initiative.”

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