stratfords kiwanis festival of the performing arts returns scaled

Stratford’s Kiwanis Festival of the Performing Arts returns

After a short hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stratford Kiwanis Festival of the Performing Arts returns this year for its 95th annual competition. 

Executive Director Pat McKinna said it’s one of the oldest festivals of its kind in Ontario, and a great opportunity for emerging artists. 

“It gives people who are learning music and performance of any sort a chance to play for a professional who will give them their opinion and feedback and encouragement,” said McKinna. “For a lot of people, it’s the first time that they will perform in front of any kind of audience.” 

From bands, to voice performances, to musical theatre, there’s a category for almost any non-professional artist to showcase their talents, and learn some skills along the way. Years ago, dance was removed from the lineup. This year, the festival is pleased to announce the return of the dance category, and McKinna said there are no limits to the style you can perform. 

While the festival took last year off due to the pandemic, organizers said the show must go on, and introduced new ways to involve performers. In-person live classes will continue, or, people can submit videos online for consideration. McKinna said this modernization has helped break down barriers and keep the festival afloat. 

“If you record your performance, you can record it until you’re happy with it. If you come and do it live, you have one shot at it. For some teachers who don’t feel their pupil is quite ready to perform live, digital turned out to be a good stepping stone,” said McKinna. “They don’t have to get it perfect the first time that the camera is turned on.” 

Beginning in 1927, the Kiwanis festival focused solely on more classical styles of music and performance. This year, they’re introducing new categories, including pop, country, rock, and jazz. 

“A lot of these festivals have been wedded to the classical styles that they were born in, and our musical taste and what is available to us has broadened so much, that it only makes sense to embrace all of that and share what everybody has in their culture for music,” added McKinna. 

Local performers have until January 23 to enroll in the in-person competition classes, with early bird discounts on enrolment fees offered until January 16. Virtual performance submissions must be submitted by March 27. The festival will take place from April 3 to 29, however those dates are subject to change depending on enrollment. 

Before the festival begins, there will be a benefit concert dubbed “Family Treasures” held on April 2. The concert will raise money for the festival and features many performances, including Stratford’s own James Westman. Westman won the top prize in the local festival’s classical voice category in 1983. 

For more information about the festival, or to register, you can visit their website.

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