Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

November 9, 2012

Editorial: Jacobi brought stability, direction

When Roger E. Jacobi started work at what is today the Interlochen Center for the Arts, it was known as the National Music Camp and he was the head of the program office.

He took over leadership at Interlochen in 1971, five years after the death of Interlochen founder Richard Maddy, and ran the camp and arts center for 18 years.

It's never easy to work in the shadow of a legend, and even harder to walk in his or her shoes. Maddy was the legend, but Jacobi put his own stamp on the music camp in the woods and helped it become one of the world's premiere music and arts experiences for young people.

Jacobi was described as a meticulous visionary whose good nature and dry sense of humor helped bring people together. He also served as a Rotary Charities trustee.

"He redefined the place," Interlochen Archivist Byron Hanson told the Record-Eagle after Jacobi's death Sunday in Farmington Hills at the age of 88. Hanson, who was conductor of the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra and a music coach during Jacobi's term, said Jacobi was a reliable influence.

"He gave stability and direction at Interlochen at a time when there was confusion and uncertainty," Hanson said.

Edward Downing, who Jacobi hired as director of the National Music Camp in 1978 and who succeeded him as Interlochen Center for the Arts president, had similar praise.

"Roger was a steady hand at the tiller at the time in its history when Interlochen needed it most," he said.

Jacobi oversaw construction of the Dendrinos Chapel/Recital Hall and Corson Auditorium, and helped introduce jazz and a creative writing program to the Center's offerings.

Both men said Jacobi and his wife Mary Jane, who died in 2011, were supportive of the students in their care.

"He and Mary Jane ate all their meals on campus," Downing said. "That was important to them, to be around the kids."

Jacobi earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music at the University of Michigan, where he later held several positions including dean of the School of Music.

Interlochen has kept their names alive. The school annually awards the Roger E. and Mary Jane Jacobi Camp and Academy scholarships, and the Roger E. and Mary Jane Jacobi Citizenship Award.

Services will be held at noon Saturday at Zion Lutheran Church in Ferndale. A memorial service will take place on the Interlochen campus in the summer of 2013. Memorial gifts can be directed to the Roger E. and Mary Jane Jacobi Citizenship Award Scholarship Fund, in care of Interlochen Center for the Arts.

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