Events Coordinator Shilo loves attending the Mackinac Music Clinic each year. This performing arts event lets bands, choirs, and orchestras learn collaboratively in a non-competitive environment while spending an idyllic weekend surrounded by the Victorian charms of Mackinac Island.
Follow along as she lets us peek inside her tour journal and experience this inspiring event.
One main road leads to all the ferries, and Shepler’s Ferry is most recognizable with its blue and white big top. Depending on how warm it is, mayflies may be darting overhead, a fresh breeze breaking off the docks, and a quiet chatter coming from students in our bright orange backpacks. Shepler’s always has a welcome sign for all our groups to read while waiting to board. You have two options for the ferry: cozy or chilly. Most students opt to ride on the top deck of the boat, catching the lake spray and freezing along the way.
Once the boat docks, you’re ushered onto Mackinac Island and instantly taken back in time. The whole place smells like fudge! Because there are no cars on the island, it’s not uncommon to see more horses than people at first pass, and then you’ll notice the bikes: tall, short, one wheel, one BIG wheel and one small.
The fastest way to anywhere on the island is by foot, so we start our journey to Mission Point with a deep breath. Walking up to the historic hotel, you can see the iconic lounging lawn with hundreds of white Adirondack chairs and the cobble-stoned hill that is killer on your legs.
Groups are greeted by Brightspark and Mission Point Hotel staff – everything is covered in green flowery carpet, including the stairs, and actual metal keys are handed out for our rooms. Once students check in, they either go to dinner or take part in their music clinic.
The music clinics take place on Friday and Saturday, so some student groups get to work making music right away. Usually, bands go to the sound stage and choirs and orchestras go to the theater stage. Because this is the ONLY theatre and sound stage on the island, students get to experience a bit of retro glamour – several movies were filmed here! Our clinicians are skilled, trained music professionals who work with students to improve their sound and genuinely connect with young, creative minds.
After students put in some hard work and snacking, it’s time for the evening entertainment. “Three Men and a Tenor” have graced the Mission Point stage for years, thrilling students and teachers alike with an a cappella show. I’ve never seen a crowd go so wild for “Blue Moon” in my life. It’s bright, fun, and engaging and leads to mobs of students crowding around for autographs afterwards. Once the crowd has died down, it’s time for the short walk back to our rooms and lights out!
Saturday morning, the clinicians are back at it with the next group of students singing, trumpeting, and drumming their way to a more perfect sound. Each group will receive a participation plaque presented by their clinician to mark the occasion.
After clinics, groups are free to explore the island. My favorite activity is the Mackinac Island Carriage Tour. They take you over the whole island, explain landmarks, and give you a history lesson by way of story-telling. It’s the best way to experience the island, but make sure to bring mittens—sometimes it snows! Groups can also visit the butterfly house, take a ride on a bike rental from Ryba’s, go to any of the forts, or shop down town. Most shops, including fudge shops, will offer a discount if you show them you’re part of a student group. Everyone has their favorite fudge though, so asking which is best won’t get you anywhere.
Then, with the clip of a hoof, the day is done, and it’s time to board Shepler’s Ferry to start the ride home. Students will be surprised that their instruments have already arrived, having been loaded onto carts and pulled by horses before they board. Most everyone opts to sit inside on the way back, even if they insist it wasn’t too cold on the way there.