Interlochen quiz bowl team finishes near-perfect season

  • Members of the Interlochen Arts Academy quiz bowl team show off the results of a narrow victory.

Interlochen Arts Academy students often receive prizes for their artistic ability. Now, a few of those students have some academic awards among their trophies.

The 31-member quiz bowl team wrapped up its 2016 regional competition season with a 12-1 record and qualified for the all-state competition at Michigan State University in April.

Ten years ago, instructor of history and political science Brian McCall founded a quiz bowl team that practiced five nights a week and participated in local tournaments. McCall quickly found, however, that students’ artistic obligations made intensive quiz bowl participation impossible, and the team was disbanded after just three years.

This year’s quiz bowl team operates under the model that McCall created when he reformed the team in the spring of 2015: two-hour practice sessions on Wednesday nights and Saturday competitions. In comparison, many of the team's competitors practice six to seven times per week, which makes Interlochen’s recent winning streak especially unprecedented.

Even with practice, quiz bowl isn’t easy. Mixed in with questions covering traditional academic subjects are questions about current events, the arts and popular culture. “We at Interlochen are always hoping for this category,” joked McCall, pointing to the subject “American Composers.”

Training strategies vary. Some of the quiz bowl members try to learn as much as they can about all subjects; others choose to specialize in one or two areas. Generally, McCall and the quiz bowl team try to have two specialists and two general-knowledge members on their four-person team. Although Interlochen’s total membership is 31 students, only four members can compete as a team in a match.

Even with such a large total team and such a small competition number, fielding a team at an arts-based academy can be difficult: artistic obligations always take priority over quiz bowl. “It’s based on who’s available,” said McCall of the process of narrowing his team for a competition. More often than not, the four competitors are selected by availability rather than merit.

Still, being on the quiz bowl team is itself an indicator of merit. “It’s primarily a self-selected group,” said McCall of the recruitment process. “The students who do best in quiz bowl are the students who already had an interest in knowledge and in knowing more.”

The 2016-17 quiz bowl team is led by captain Santiago Mendez and co-captain Harrison Short, who were appointed by McCall for their dedication and excellent performance in quiz bowl events. Although the team qualified to compete in the all-state tournament, a busy weekend of concerts and performances makes the team unable to compete. The team also appeared on WCMU’s show Quiz Central, winning the White Division and earning $16,000 in scholarships to Central Michigan University. The team is currently wrapping up their spring quizzing season against other northern Michigan high schools.

“I really enjoy being part of the Interlochen Quiz Bowl Team,” said Mendez. “By winning tournaments, we show the world that Interlochen Arts Academy not only offers an excellent artistic education, but also a first class academic curriculum.”

If you are interested in sponsoring the quiz bowl team, contact John Roddy.