The Peak of Arts: Oklahoma Quartz Mountain

By: Audrey McGee

Hello, readers of the Trojan Torch! I am here to reach out to all of the art kids of Oklahoma. If your hobbies include anything artistic, you should audition for Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute’s (OSAI) Quartz Mountain!

Annarose Atamian, Dance 2018

Every summer, for 2 weeks in June, Oklahoma Arts Institute hosts a summer camp at Quartz Mountain in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma. Arts students from all walks of life congregate here to grow in their art and meet new people from different artistic backgrounds. It’s an immersive overnight camp where you get to work with professionals in your artistic field to better understand the practice. 

When I say art, I don’t just mean painting and drawing either. Within the summer camp, there are 8 “disciplines” i.e. Acting, Chorus, Creative Writing, Dance, Drawing and Painting, Film and Video, Orchestra, and Photography. Some notable alumni of OSAI Quartz Mountain are Tim Blake Nelson (who starred in movies such as Holes and The Incredible Hulk), Paul Taggart (most famous for his photography of the Middle East and Europe), Timothy Long (a famous pianist and conductor who has performed in multiple operas), and Yolanda Kondonassis (who is a 2-time grammy-nominated harpist). 

Now, if you are reading this and thinking, “Sorry sis, this seems super expensive and I can’t break out the old wallet for this, ya know?” Well, I got good news, once accepted into the program, you are automatically awarded a full scholarship to the camp. 

Although I attended the camp myself last year, I wanted to get the full scoop on the program. I interviewed 4 of quartz past students to give you some opinions they had on the camp. Faith Christner (4 years in Film and Video), Noya Fan (1 year in Orchestra), Roland Rice (4 years in Film and Video) and Leviathan Lee (2 years in Acting). 

Questions and Answers:

What is Quartz Mountain?

Faith (Film and Video): “Quartz Mountain is a really great place where I can go and see people who have the same goals and passion as me. It helps to find that kind of art community in Oklahoma.”

Roland (Film and Video): “It is an arts camp where different disciplines meet together and come together to make a final project in their respective disciplines.”

Noya (Orchestra): “Quartz Mountain has a bunch of different disciplines. For Orchestra it was basically just rehearsal every day. But it was also really fun to do the different activities there and the nightly meetings* they had.” 

*Every night you and your roommates meet with a couple of other rooms in your hall and just talk about your day and life with your counselors. It’s a way to wind down after a busy day of moving.

What is your discipline like?

Faith (Film and Video): “It changes depending on the teacher… and they are always some really cool people and mentors that we can look up to but we usually make a couple of short films or just one big one with different groups. But remember, not everybody’s gonna be able to be the director or the producer so even if you say you want to do one thing you are put in another role because that’s just how the business is. You can’t strip yourself down to one thing.”

Lee (Acting): “We do a lot of things outside and in the Pavillion. We work a lot in shaping both our bodies and our minds in different ways. We delved into what acting is, what kind of the mind it affects and how to not slip too deep into acting, you know, like method acting because it kinda… yeah. You are assigned a scene that you will perform. We did scenes from one play the first year and a combination of scenes the second year. You work on those most of the time and then we went to teach about the day we performed.”

Ella 2019 

What were your Instructors like?

Lee (Acting): “Last year we had Grace Kylie and Ken Sonkin. They were both brilliant and so cool. They are both so energetic and full of life. It wasn’t like acting was their job, it was like their life. But they separated from their characters well. I wouldn’t call it all-encompassing rather the embodiment of the perfect actors.”

Roland (Film and Video): “I really, really liked all the instructors we have had. They all push you out of your comfort zone into things that you usually wouldn’t do. If I have a bad shot or if I’m out on the shoot doing something wrong they will direct me and challenge my decisions. I will resist but later on, realize that was the better call.”

What’s your favorite part of Quartz?

Faith (Film and Video): “Their Oreo Pie, it hits different. But in all seriousness, I love the community. I also like the feeling of being independent. It’s like a prep for college because you get to say ‘ok, I’m getting up at this time, then I’m going to class, I might go get a snack before then.’ I feel very independent.”

Noya: “I liked the intense schedule. You basically never see your phone since they have such bad service so thank god for the schedule because you are never bored.”

Roland (Film and Video): “I liked the self-discovery and being in an environment where you are free to do whatever you want to do and be whoever you are. It’s kinda like ‘whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.’ Nothing illegal, nothing bad. The second thing is it boosts your confidence in whatever discipline you go to. You leave and you feel like this professional in whatever you do.”

Lee (Film and Video): “I like not being around my family. That probably sounds really bad, but I did. I liked being in a place where the environment is stressful in the most productive and creative way possible. There is no busywork, it’s just pure creativity and growth. It puts you out of your comfort zone at first, but in the end, it feels more comfortable than home.”

What was the hardest part of Quartz?

Noya: “The audition for Orchestra. For some, it isn’t as hard because they are using similar excerpts as the all-state audition. But I know for other disciplines like dance it’s really hard to get in. I also didn’t really know anyone who was going. I didn’t decide to sign up until the deadline almost passed so I was really nervous. I was really scared of going, not knowing anyone, but when I got to my room and  met my roommate and they were so nice and I met some band people from Jenks so I was fine in the end.”

Roland (Film and Video): “Something that people deal with within any industry is working on a project with someone who can be very difficult to get along with. Having to work with and around those kinds of people has taught me to grow, has taught me to compromise, keep a level head and brainstorm when things may go wrong last second. That is something I will need to know when I get into the industry so I am grateful in a way for those kinds of people.”

What do you get out of Quartz?

Faith: “Getting that kind of prestigious background before getting into the field. You get to find out how a team is going to work, who is going to do what. And it’s also a bit different from Jenks [film program] because Jenks focuses on mini-doc but quartz lets you do fictional pieces.”

Roland (Film and Video): “In school, you are generally surrounded by people you can’t relate to as an art kid. You talk to any kid in any discipline there and they get it. Being able to talk and work with people that are similar to you in some way is incredibly gratifying. That is why I am grateful of Quartz and wish I had it 6 times a year. I crave it but that’s another thing that makes it great, it’s limited.”

Lee (Acting): “It kind of showed me where my priorities are. One of them is I decided that acting is not the path for me. It’s great and I loved all of Acting at Quartz but it’s not my passion anymore really… Whenever I come home from Quartz I’m like ‘I’m going to paint everything I see. I am going to take pictures of everything I see. I am going to write so many songs and poems.’ You are in that rush of the world is a beautiful, beautiful place and I want to catch that in every way I can. 

Noya Fan, Orchestra 2019

What was the interview process like for Quartz?

Faith: “So you walk in with a flash drive and they watch your film and ask you some questions about it like what did you do? Why did you do it? And then they kinda ask for an elevator pitch about it. Then they are like ‘I can’t tell you if I like it or not because it’s non-biased but you’ll find out!’. [The interview] is the most nerve-racking two minutes you will ever experience in your life.” 

Lee (Acting): “We had to do two contrasting monologues. We would do the monologue, ask us a question or two and then offer a switch up for you to do either in tone or movement. That’s basically all you had to do.”

Noya: “For us [Orchestra] it’s like we pick the location. We go into a room and they record your audition including skills, excerpts, solo, and sight-reading. 

What tips do you have for the interview?

Faith: “Don’t be scared and don’t undermine yourself. I remember the first year, they asked what I did and I was like ‘I think I did this and this’ and it’s like you have to walk in with more confidence and sell yourself like ‘ yeah, I did this and I’m really proud of it’.”

Lee (Acting): “In general you don’t want to be too nervous but you also want to have a healthy amount of nerves to keep you on your feet.” 

Noya: “Just relax, don’t be too intense because it will affect your playing. They have high-tech recorders so if your super tense they will be able to notice. Also, practice your sight-reading. We had a short amount of time to practice beforehand.”

What advice do you have for the freshies of Quartz?

Roland (Film and Video): “I would advise you to bring a lot of extra snacks. I brought a huge plastic box and I just filled it with goldfish and airheads. The rule is you don’t share and you ration those supplies. Ok one last thing, Bug spray is your best friend, USE BUG SPRAY!” 

Noya (Orchestra): “Don’t be shy! There are so many people you can talk to. There might be some friend groups already there but everyone who goes to quartz is nice.”

The summer doesn’t end there though! Quartz Mountain hosts an art exhibit every year after the camp called Tour de Quartz featuring the creations of the photography and drawing/painting kids. It gives kids the chance to get their art out there to ordinary people that could help them grow in their passions. So if you see that Tour de Quartz is in a city near you, go check it out! That could be your art up on those walls one day!

Quartz is definitely not for the faint of heart. But if you are truly passionate about your art, try quartz out! It’s truly different from other summer camps and you will fall in love with both the atmosphere and the people there. “This could be the summer that changes your life” ~ OSAI (Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute).

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