Former Interlochen president Edward J. Downing dies
Interlochen Center for the Arts' sixth president had retired in 2003.
Interlochen Center for the Arts' sixth president Edward J. Downing has died. He was 87.
Downing first came to Interlochen in the summers of 1974 and 1975, when he served as Director of the University of Michigan All-State Program.
In 1978, Downing became the director of Interlochen's National Music Camp (now Interlochen Arts Camp) and director of the Interlochen Arts Academy Band.
At the end of the all-staff meeting before camp each summer, he would say, “If you listen, you can hear 'em coming. They’re packing their trunks and suitcases and getting in cars and planes. They’re bringing their hopes and dreams with them. And it’s our job to make their dreams come true. Are you ready?” And we would yell back, “Yes!” And he would say, “It’s eight times around a very fast track and it starts tomorrow. Get ready, get set, go!"J. Berry, Interlochen Center for the Arts Assistant Director of Instrument Services & Music Operations
As director of camp, Downing conducted the iconic Les Préludes concert at the close of every Interlochen Arts Camp season. He was only the third person in history to hold the baton for that annual performance.
Later, as the Vice President for Education for Interlochen Center for the Arts, Downing was responsible for all educational programming, directed the operations of Camp and Academy and was at the helm of the annual Interlochen Arts Festival.
Downing made it a point to shake the hand of every camper each summer at Interlochen Arts Camp.
Downing was elected Interlochen's sixth president in 1998.
Under his leadership, Interlochen Public Radio launched a second station featuring an all-news format (IPR News Radio); the Frohlich Piano and Percussion Building and Harvey Theatre were built; and The Writing House, the only building in the United States dedicated to writing at the pre-college level, was constructed.
In 1999, he led Interlochen to complete campus-wide renovations and new construction totaling $16.1 million.
He retired from Interlochen in 2003, at which time he was named President Emeritus.
At the conclusion of my first summer as a camper in 1983, Ed shook my hand and said that he looked forward to welcoming me back the following summer. Having the door opened for you like that, with such optimism and enthusiasm, can have life-changing, enormously positive results. I remember that in my own encouragement of my students to this day.Mark Powell, Associate Professor and Director of Orchestral Studies, Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College CUNY
In 2007, four years after his retirement from Interlochen, Downing took on a new role as the executive director of the Traverse Symphony Orchestra.
He was supposed to serve for three months in an interim capacity and ended up staying for five years, retiring again in 2012.
Ed was a fervent champion for music and arts education, and he shaped the course of Interlochen Center for the Arts. We are deeply saddened by his loss, and send our condolences to Joyce and the Downing family.Trey Devey, President, Interlochen Center for the Arts
In a profile published by the Rotary Club of Traverse City, Downing said that his most significant life accomplishment was his marriage to his wife Joyce, their three grandchildren and their seven grandchildren.
Downing died Feb. 10 at his home in Traverse City.
Classical IPR will present a future broadcast day in memory of Downing in the near future.