Academy students take on faculty in pop quiz bowl

Early arrivals at the first community meeting after Interlochen Arts Academy’s winter break may have felt that they had walked into the wrong room.

Instead of a slideshow, a basketball timer was projected on the screen in Corson Auditorium. A few minutes later, the image faded, but an enigmatic setup of three tables and 14 chairs remained.

When the stage lights came up, students found themselves greeted by Kate Botello, best known as one of the on-air hosts of Interlochen Public Radio’s Classical IPR. Botello was on hand to serve as announcer and host for a special post-break treat: A surprise students-versus-faculty quiz bowl match.

The student team consisted of some of the top members of Interlochen Arts Academy’s quiz bowl team, which recently won its local division and will advance to the statewide quiz bowl competition in April. The students’ opponent was a team of both artistic and academic instructors: English instructor Jeff Wescott, chemistry instructor Katie Wibby, theatre instructor David Montee, viola instructor Renee Skerik, physical education instructor Lisa Melnyk, and history instructor Brian McCall.

The students in the audience greeted the quiz bowl team warmly, but roared with delight as their instructors were announced.

As McCall took his seat, Botello asked the question reader for the event to join her at the center table. The students were thrilled to see Interlochen Center for the Arts President Jeffrey Kimpton emerge from behind the curtains to join Botello.

The next 20 minutes ticked away quickly, guarded by the watchful eye of the basketball timer. For the first half of the competition, the student quiz bowl team dominated the competition. As the student team struggled to remember animals in Shakespeare’s plays, the audience giggled at David Montee’s disappointed countenance. A few moments later, Montee produced the faculty’s first correct answer—unsurprisingly, about a play.

From that point on, the tide began to turn. The faculty roared back, briefly surpassing the student team and receiving thunderous applause for each correct response. “Quiet in the audience, please,” said President Kimpton, then quipped, “I learned that from Alex Trebek.”

The final five minutes saw students and faculty exchanging the lead in a dramatic race to the finish. As the clock wound down, however, the student team once again asserted its dominance, wrapping up the game with a 27-18 victory. The audience gave a genuine cheer for both teams; a gentle reminder that while art and academics can both be competitive disciplines, everyone at Interlochen is family.