This April will mark a very special music festival assignment for me. I've been asked to adjudicate at the Kiwanis Music Festival in Ottawa, Ontario, the city where I grew up, and did all my festival classes as a youngster. It will mark my first time back at the festival in many years, and my first time as an adjudicator, and not a contestant. I was asked to prepare a short letter for the program as a way of letting this year's competitors know what the festival meant for me, and why it is an important part of our musical education. I've reprinted it below.
The Music Festival has played an integral role in my musical education since I started taking music lessons nearly thirty years ago. By the time I was eight years old, I was registered in piano, voice and choral classes, and through the next twenty years I also found myself competing in ensembles, organ and trumpet. That I was able to get from one venue to the next on schedule is a miracle, and one for which I owe my parents a great deal of the credit! The month of April became known as “Festival Time”, and it became a way of life for our family. My parents made sure the appropriate letters excusing me from school so that I could compete were written and that my blazer was dry cleaned, shirt was pressed, and my red tie was knotted correctly.
As with any discipline, whether musical, athletic or academic, goal-setting is an important part of the process. I was very fortunate in having supportive parents and teachers who taught me the value of this experience. The festival was an opportunity to showcase the hard work and determination that I put into my daily practice. Not only was it a chance to perform in front of a live audience, but more importantly, it was an opportunity to perform for another teacher, and receive constructive feedback. Although it was always nice to be recognized with an award for the performances, this was always secondary to the experience and adjudication that I received, and the growth in my abilities that resulted.
I owe a great deal of my success as a professional musician to the skills I developed as a participant in the Festival. I was able to cultivate a strong stage presence, which not only increased my ability as a performer, but also as a public speaker, which is invaluable as a university lecturer and adjudicator. I was able to form friendships with other young musicians, many of which have turned into life-long relationships.
In the past ten years, I have experienced a different side of these festivals, as I’ve taken on the role of adjudicator. I receive so much joy from watching the rising stars who will shape the future of music and performance practice in Canada in the near future. And although you might think that performing for an adjudicator is reason to be nervous, just remember that every one of your adjudicators began just as you are now. Who knows? Maybe in ten or fifteen years’ time, you’ll be sitting where I am now.