2022 Season Dedication

Blue Lake Board of Trustees dedicates 2022 season to President Emeritus, Fritz Stansell

Long before Blue Lake’s first campers arrived in the summer of 1966, Fritz Stansell had a dream to create a haven where artistic youth could build upon their talent and grow personally in an isolated, enriching, motivating environment. Together with his family, he imagined this place that is Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. He relentlessly believed in its mission. Then he achieved it.

In 1963, Fritz Stansell, along with family and friends, began the search for a suitable location for their summer school of the arts, eventually settling on the site of an abandoned camp owned by an orphanage for boys run by the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. Purchasing the property, securing financial backing, designing the programs, staffing the operation, and preparing the dilapidated, old facilities for renewed operation was a massive endeavor to say the least. Undeterred, Stansell’s personal sacrifices included cashing in his entire teacher pension, selling the family home, moving his young family to the remote campus, and spending every waking moment working to fulfill his vision.

Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp opened on the Fourth of July weekend in 1966 and welcomed 326 campers attending that first season, with programs in orchestra, band, jazz, choir, piano, art, and ballet, as well as clinics in clarinet and flute technique. Since then, nearly 300,000 participants have attended Blue Lake, which has grown to include expanded Summer Camp programs, Suzuki Family Camp (in its 45th season), Summer Camp for Adults (in its 30th season), Blue Lake Public Radio (celebrating its 40th year), and the widely acclaimed International Exchange Program (founded by Fritz’s wife, Gretchen, in 1972). Students and families, faculty and staff travel to attend from nearly every Michigan county, most US states, and many foreign countries, representing a diverse collective of students, educators, and lifelong learners who come together annually to celebrate the arts.

Under Fritz Stansell’s unwavering leadership, Blue Lake has remained remarkably adaptable yet focused, resilient, and true to its mission. Aiming to establish a philosophy that would separate Blue Lake from similar institutions, Stansell focused on creating an atmosphere where students who wanted to learn could do so, regardless of proficiency level, in an environment that encourages creativity and recognizes the importance of the individual. His goal was to provide a positive growth experience in the arts for deserving children of all abilities. He knew that for the arts to survive in the future, not only must we cultivate the next generation of artists, we must also encourage the next generation of appreciative and knowledgeable audiences.

As a part of his philosophy of arts for all, Fritz Stansell endeavored to serve students from diverse backgrounds and underserved communities by creating opportunities to attend through a generous scholarship program. One of the first organizations with a non-profit status within the state of Michigan, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp has awarded millions in scholarships throughout its fifty-six year history, through generous partnerships with corporate and community foundations, private donors, and an established endowment, reaching thousands of students each season — unparalleled outreach by any summer arts program.

It was not easy. There were moments of doubt and difficulty, as there are in any worthwhile endeavor. But over the years, those challenges and obstacles have been reduced to mere static in an enduring beacon of idealism, courage, hard work, determination, and meaningful results. Fritz Stansell is a true visionary who has dedicated more than 60 years of his life to the growth and development of one of the largest summer schools of the arts and established cultural treasures in the nation.

Those who know Fritz Stansell personally also know of his sense of humor and wit, immense knowledge of a variety of subjects in the arts, music, history, language and literature, and his generous heart. He also carries an innate ability to kindly critique even the most accomplished musicians as only a master teacher can do. His impact as musician, conductor, teacher, and leader reaches far and wide.

Fritz Stansell’s life’s work of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp serves as a beautiful self-portrait, achieving the highest standards in the field through unwavering pursuit of a personal dream. His lifetime of accomplishments represent a collective example of selfless leadership for the betterment of the whole.

Thank you, Fritz, for your immeasurable contributions to the vision, creation, life, and longevity of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.

Fritz Stansell, Founder and President Emeritus of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp back in 2016, conducting the Festival Orchestra as they perform camp “Canterbury Lane,” camp theme composed by his maternal grandfather Ludolph Arens, in the season finale celebrating Blue Lake’s 50th year of operation
Fritz Stansell, Founder and President Emeritus of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp back in 2016, conducting the Festival Orchestra as they perform camp “Canterbury Lane,” camp theme composed by his maternal grandfather Ludolph Arens, in the season finale celebrating Blue Lake’s 50th year of operation

Share a Personal Tribute Sentiment Memory

If you would like to write a personal tribute to Mr. Stansell, or share how Blue Lake has impacted you or your family, please provide a sentiment below. Share your Blue Lake memories! Tributes will be assembled with others from the Blue Lake community of families, students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and presented in a bound book to Mr. Stansell and family at the conclusion of the season.

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