Two unique talents show off SM East-honed skills at world-renowned arts camp

Lily Kaufmann performing at Interlochen.

For many high schoolers, summer is a time to laze away long, hot days.

But for two incoming SM East seniors, this summer provided an opportunity to hone — and show off — some amazing talents.

Flute virtuoso Emma Reno and musical theatre standout Lily Kaufmann returned earlier this week from the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, a world-renowned haven for some of the nation’s most talented young artists.

Reno, who earned the right to play first-chair flute in the 2012 Kansas All-State Orchestra (read: she’s the best high-school flautist between at least here and the Colorado border), attended the camp for six weeks, spending at least five hours a day, and often more, in rehearsals.

“It was a great experience for me to see what I can do,” she said. “Going in, I felt like, ‘I know I can play with some of the best kids in Kansas, but I have no idea how I compare at the next level.’ I learned a lot about where I stand.”

Reno was so taken with the immersive environment of the camp that she is actually in the process of applying to the Interlochen Academy, hoping to spend her senior year at the organization’s boarding school, further honing her skills in preparation for a college major.

“I start class at East on Tuesday,” she said. “But I don’t know how much longer I’ll be in Kansas, honestly.”

Kaufmann, who attended Interlochen’s three-week musical theatre workshop, said the experience sharpened her desire to get better at her craft and pursue a career in the theatre. At the workshop, she got to explore the intricacies of musical theatre from every angle. The young actors got tips on “theatre hair” from a stylist who worked on Mad Men. Kaufmann got performance notes from Kevin Chamberlin, a Tony-nominated actor who current stars in the Disney Channel show Jessie.

All of the two dozen performers in the camp worked on individual and ensemble pieces — and Kaufmann’s performances apparently made quite an impression on the camp’s organizers.

During the closing assembly, the Interlochen directors name a male and a female Fine Arts Award winner from each program — recognizing the top talent and performers. Kaufmann, who was nominated for a Blue Star Award this spring, won in the musical theatre category.

“I had no idea,” she said. “When they called my name, I heard it, but I didn’t really process it at first. But then everyone in my cabin started screaming, and I thought, ‘Oh, my God.’ I won. My jaw just dropped.”

Kaufmann said she’s hoping to attend a state school with a strong theatre department, maybe the University of Michigan. Reno is looking at the music departments at TCU, St. Olaf and UMKC, among others.

Emma Reno, center, with friends at Interlochen.