For Emmaline Adams, 17, of Wilmore, music is practically in her blood.
Her great-grandfather, grandmother, great-aunt and mother were all music teachers. And Emmaline plans to continue the tradition and is getting a head start at Michigan's Interlochen Arts Academy, a premier fine arts boarding high school founded in 1962, where she will study percussion.
The academy provides year-round training in the arts combined with comprehensive college-preparatory academics. According to a news release, more than 90 Grammy Awards have been presented to Interlochen alumni.
When Emmaline started playing piano at age 6, she knew she wanted to be involved in music in middle school. She decided to pursue percussion in sixth grade because of its similarities with piano.
"I just started doing it and fell in love with it," Emmaline said.
Last summer, she attended a summer music camp at Interlochen Arts Academy, where she pushed her skills to the next level, practicing almost 10 hours a day for seven weeks. After that experience, she considered applying for the academy for her senior year. With some encouragement from friends, family and teachers, she did.
Four audition videos, an in-depth essay, several letters of recommendation and one high school transcript later, she was accepted.
"It was one of those things I never thought would happen," Emmaline said.
Her mother, Elizabeth Adams, said she was worried at first about sending her oldest daughter of five children to Interlochen — about 13 hours away by car — for an entire year, but she was impressed by the academy when her daughter attended the music camp.
"We can send her and know she is going to be in this wonderful, creative environment and also safe and really looked after," Adams said. "Going to Interlochen is going to expose her to a whole different level of playing and, frankly, teachers who are really going to push her."
Previously, Emmaline attended West Jessamine High School, where she was first chair of percussion in symphonic band, sideline section leader in marching band and percussion captain. In her junior year, she played percussion in the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras.
She will be stepping down from her positions as assistant drum major and band council president to continue her education at Interlochen. She also taught percussion to the seventh-and eighth-graders at West Jessamine Middle School.
Although she felt like she was abandoning the band, everyone was supportive of her decision, Emmaline said. Matt LaBarbara, West Jessamine Middle School band director, said he was going to miss the extra help, but was proud of Emmaline's accomplishment.
"It couldn't happen to a nicer kid or a better student," LaBarbara said.
Not only does Emmaline help teach the middle school band, she helped teach some of her peers in the high school and gave private lessons to students.
"It's been wonderful going from being a student to being able to help others," Emmaline said.
When Emmaline teaches, she also learns during the process. Especially in teaching peers, Emmaline said, she has had to learn self-discipline and how to act more like an adult.
"It's hard sometimes trying to distinguish between fun and work," Emmaline said. "But you have to."
Emmaline hopes Interlochen will prepare her to audition for colleges and conservatories.
Eventually, she wants to pursue a doctorate in music education or percussion to teach on the high school, middle school or collegiate level.
"I really love helping others and spreading this love that I have for music to others," she said.
Emmaline will move to Interlochen in early September. Although she received a partial scholarship — $48,000 of the $58,000 tuition — her family is making sacrifices to help pay for the rest and have set up a GoFundMe account.
Emmaline is selling her instruments. Her mother sold her vehicle and the family held a garage sale.
"It's just been a crazy, surreal experience," Emmaline said, "Going from thinking back in May I was going to graduate from West Jessamine to I get to graduate from Interlochen."