Calgary Performing Arts Festival

Over 3,700 performances involving 10,000 amateur performers makes the Calgary Performing Arts Festival (formerly the Kiwanis Festival) one of North America's largest! The Festival gives performers a unique opportunity to receive feedback from arts professionals and learn from their peers.

Two young performers playing violine and celloOur Story Why We Exist

“While winning was important to me, I learned so much more from my experience at the Festival. I learned from not only my own experience playing, listening to the judges, but also from the other players…if it weren’t for the Festival, I wouldn’t have reached the level that I am at now.” – Yina Tong, 2006 Rose Bowl winner, New England Conservatory Masters grad and touring cellist.

Education: The Festival encourages skill development in the performing arts for youth by providing a forum where they can perform, receive feedback from arts professionals, and learn from each other/peers.

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“The [Calgary Performing Arts] Festival is a great place for young performers to learn, to work towards a goal and to make friends who share similar interests. It’s also a great way for young performers to share their musical gifts with the community.” – Scott MacIsaac, 2010 Rose Bowl winner, Yale School of Music grad and touring concert pianist.

Supporting emerging artists: The Festival serves as a critical venue for emerging artists, e.g. the Festival’s top prize, the Rose Bowl, comes with an opportunity to perform in concert with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Many internationally renowned musicians and singers started out performing at the Calgary Festival: Jane Coop, Susan Hoeppner, Michael Kim, Heather Schmidt, Annalee Patipatanakoon, and Jan Lisiecki.

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Having decided to go a different route and become an Engineer, I have found that some of the skills I learned through my festival years have served me exceptionally well. Having to prepare works of art and pay attention to every detail therein was a course in preparation I couldn't have taken at any school or university. My presentation skills and ability to highlight details are at a much higher level than they would have been without my many years of performing in the Festival. Not only did the Festival set me up for my career on a technical level, but music, performance and the combination of both through the Festival gave me a sense of self confidence that had never existed before.” – Aiofe Donnelly, Drilling EIT 

Life Skills: Not every Festival participant is destined for life under the spotlight. Participation in the Festival enables young people to learn valuable life lessons such as setting goals, time management and the satisfaction of achieving those goals – skill sets they can apply to whatever profession they choose.

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“It’s a great festival. It’s so unique and so much fun – it’s a really great experience for kids. It taught me so much. I really loved it.” – Alexander Malikov, Quarter-finalist in the 2015 Honens International Piano Competition.

Arts appreciation: The Festival fosters appreciation of the performing arts by providing a positive experience for young people, who will carry these experiences into adulthood and become lifelong supporters of the arts.

Our Impact What We Do

With each annual Festival, we aspire to introduce a new generation of amateur artists to the joys of performance! Our Festival is one of the city’s highest profile arts and culture events with over 10,000 performers taking part each year.  

The Festival began in 1931 with just over 200 entries and has since grown into one of North America’s largest amateur performing arts festivals. Our mission is to encourage amateur performance in our community.

We do this by producing a three-week Festival each year to showcase the talents of approximately 10,000 young musicians, singers and drama students in over 3,700 performances. There over 15 performance categories including school bands, Chinese ethnic instruments, choral music, drama, guitar, musical theatre, piano, strings and woodwind to name just a few.

For over 80 years the Festival has focused on expanding our categories so that we continue to reflect performance trends and the interests of our audience. Most recently in 2015, Festival added a popular guitar category to encourage students who are learning to play the guitar but are not interested in classical music.  New classes for Chinese ethnic instruments were added a few years ago and prove to be very popular. More recently, performance piano, which is non-competitive and non-adjudicated, was added to give participants an opportunity to gain confidence from the experience of public performance without the pressure of being marked.

A very important aspect of Festival for many young performers is the adjudication. We invite adjudicators, well-respected within in their field, to offer constructive oral and written feedback with the intention of nurturing the budding talent and growing passion for performance.

Outside of Festival time, we host concerts and collaborate with local performing arts organizations so that we may provide Festival participants with additional opportunities to perform publicly and share their passion for the arts.

Festival is a member of the Alberta Music Festival Association (AMFA) and the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals (FCMF) which provides those who excel locally with the opportunity to advance to the provincial or national levels.

Our Programs How We Do It

Our Festival is generally held over a three-week period with classes running daily from 9:00a.m. – 9:00 p.m. on eight different stages throughout the Mount Royal University campus. Classes vary and could consist of four elementary school choirs all singing two selections for the adjudicator in a large concert hall; or it could be a small group of grade three piano students, each playing a solo piece from the classical era; or it could be 15 musical theatre performers coming together to perform five different trios from Broadway plays.    

We cover a wide range of performance categories and all are judged by renowned adjudicators from across North America such as Ray Luck, Zoltan Szabo, and Barbara Collier. These professionals share their knowledge and expertise with the students, providing valuable learning experiences for all. Each performance, whether it is a soloist or an entire group will receive both a written and oral adjudication pointing out what they did well and areas where they could still make some improvements.

While most classes are competitive, the Festival also offers many non-competitive classes where students receive the same written and oral comments from the adjudicator but no marks are given.

Public performance: There is no fee to come out and enjoy the classes and we invite Calgarians to come out and support our up and coming musicians and actors. Several public concerts annually are hosted annually (Stars of the Festival, Musical Theatre Showcase, Speech Performers Showcase) featuring top performers heard and seen at that year’s Festival.

Media coverage: The Festival and its performers are well loved by local media and their readers and are regularly featured in print, radio and TV broadcasts around Festival time and throughout the year.

Cultural outreach: The Festival conducts targeted outreach to cultural communities (publishing Chinese language ads and syllabus materials, partnering with cultural groups to offer scholarships).

Scholarships: Each year approximately $55,000 is awarded in scholarships to help nurture emerging artists and encourage the continued pursuit of their studies.

Continued growth: Festival aspires to introduce a new generation of Calgarians to the joys of performance by:

  • Expanding outreach efforts directed at private music teachers and their students, who account for a large number of participants in the Festival.
  • Creating more non-competitive/non-adjudicated classes in disciplines in addition to piano.
  • Establishing new partnerships with local performing arts organizations and cultural groups in order to reach more performers and increase the number of opportunities for Festival participants to perform.
  • Continuing to create new classes and expanding performance categories based on the students’ needs and interests. 

Our Requests What You Can Do

The Calgary Performing Arts Festival is always seeking additional sponsors, donors and in-kind contributions to help stretch our budget.

Scholarships: Festival is specifically looking for $500+ principal scholarships for musical theatre, chamber and choral classes.

Donations: Help cover the costs associated with venue rentals, adjudication fees and expenses, and the scholarships awarded by giving what you can.

Corporate and title sponsors: Festival requires more corporate sponsors who wish to support a well-loved community arts organization. Sponsorship levels range from $2,500 to $20,000 to a title sponsorship opportunity. Interested in becoming a corporate sponsor? Find out the benefits of doing so by requesting a sponsorship package by email or call Mary Ross at 403.283-6009. To advertise in our program, email us.

Festival Volunteers Needed! If you have some time to share and would like to become a volunteer,please contact the office at 403-283-6009 or send email to volunteer@cpafestival.ca. Each year we require more than 100 volunteers who dedicate approximately 2,500 hours of time to help produce the Festival.  Volunteers are essential to our operation. With thousands of performances over the three-week Festival, we cannot mount this Festival without you!

Board Members: We are always accepting applications for our board positions. Our board members are dedicated to finding new sources of funding for the Festival and ensuring strong governance so that our organization may continue to make such strong contributions to the local arts community. 

Contact

Mary Ross
Executive Director
403.283.6009
Charitable Number: 129539235RR0001

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Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 575,000
Calgary