RC teen heads to Interlochen
Jacob Bruski just wants to play. Guitar, that is.
The talented Rogers City teen will pursue his love of playing guitar at Interlochen Arts Academy for his junior and senior years of high school, thanks to his mom and the generous support of the community.
Bruski, 16, and his guitars, headed to Interlochen on Thursday to settle in for the fall semester there. He will turn 17 in September.
Interlochen, located in northwest Michigan 15 miles south of Traverse City, accepts only 500 students in grades nine through 12 from all over the world into its academy each year.
The prestigious boarding school carries a price tag of $62,185 per year, which does not include additional fees for books and a laptop, according to the 2018-19 tuition rate sheet on the academy’s website, www.interlochen.org. The majority of that tuition will be paid through financial aid and student loans, Bruski’s mom Joanna Moja said, but the community has supported him through fundraising as well, raising $1,220.
Moja works a minimum wage job, but she said “I’ll do what it takes,” to give her son every opportunity to succeed.
“I did apply for financial aid, that knocked some off,” Moja explained. “What was left to me to pay was $30,830.”
Bruski got a taste of the Interlochen culture in the summer of 2017 when an anonymous donor footed the bill for him to attend summer camp there, which cost about $7,000 for three weeks, Moja said.
“That was the first time I’d even heard of (Interlochen),” he said.
His mom knows who the donor is, but she said that donor wanted to remain nameless.
While at the summer program, called “Contemporary Guitar Styles,” Bruski said his guitar teacher, Dr. Matthew Cochran, “invited me to be in the guitar program at the actual academy for my junior and senior year.”
“So I told my mom and dad,” Bruski said.
His dad is Marvin Bruski of Posen.
“Basically, my mom said, ‘If you really want to go, we’ll find a way to make it happen.'”
“It’s absolutely, completely his element,” Moja said. “He’s excited to go, and I know he’ll thrive there.”
He said it wasn’t a snap decision for him, but ultimately he wanted to do it.
“I took a little bit to decide, and once I said yes, we got the ball rolling, and I still had to apply,” Bruski said. “To apply for the guitar program, you have to just basically submit a resume of things you’ve done, write a little essay, and then just do some different videos of you playing guitar. You know, just freestyle solo and some different chord progressions.”
Moja added that you need letters of recommendation and good grades. Bruski is on the honor roll, so that was not a problem for him.
“It’s mainly arts-based,” Bruski noted. “Grades aren’t everything, but I’m sure it’s a lot better if you have better grades.”
Bruski owns 12 guitars and has been playing for four years now.
“I just love it,” Bruski said of playing guitar. “It makes me very happy to play.”
He got his first guitar on his 13th birthday.
“I love rock ‘n’ roll, specifically,” he added.
His mom’s significant other Jeremiah Wirgau also plays guitar and has been “very involved” in his progress as a musician, Moja said.
“Other than that, he is self-taught,” she added. “He’s never had lessons, other than Interlochen.”
He loves playing, but he wants to work on writing music as well.
“I think Interlochen will help me with writing and composing,” Bruski said.
He mostly performs covers right now, but he wants to hone his composing and lyrical skills. He performed solo at the Miss Posen Pageant Aug. 10, and he was in a 70s and 80s rock cover band called “Blame George.”
Bruski’s absence from Rogers City High School will not go unnoticed, as he has been an honor student, class president and has been actively involved in drama club, key club, ski club, jazz band, pep band, and marching band, in which he plays the trumpet. He has also been very active with Rogers City Community Theatre.
About 50 to 75 people attended a going-away party for Bruski at Moja’s home on Aug. 18.
“I want to say a huge thanks to the community I live in,” Bruski said. “They’ve really been supportive and helpful.”
He is both excited and nervous about this new chapter in his life.
“I’m nervous to be away from my friends, and that I’m leaving home two years sooner than expected,” he said.
After attending Interlochen, Bruski plans to go to college to continue pursuing music, but he is not sure where yet.
“U of M has been one of my favorites for a long time,” he said.
Moja added that Interlochen “handles the whole process” of applying for higher education beyond the academy.
“This is a prestigious school, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the doors it will open, I can only imagine,” she said.
Darby Hinkley can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 989-354-3111 ext. 324.