The 41st annual 100 Mile Festival of the Arts is taking place from April 18 until April 28 throughout the day at the Martin Exeter Hall.
The festival provides a venue for students as young as six and as old as 80 to perform pieces they have worked on thoughout the year in a variety of disciplines: vocal, speech and dramatic arts, instrumental, piano and music composition.
Students are adjudicated based on their performances and the best are invited to perform at the Showcase Concert on April 29 and/or continue on to the provincial festival in June.
Ginny-Lou Alexander, a spokesperson and organizer of the festival, says the festival provides many benefits to students.
“Students learn the discipline of learning something, they have to practice a lot and that is good discipline. They gain self esteem. They often have to work in teams,” she says. “It all helps people to develop good well rounded personalities that work well with other people and get stuff done.”
Adjudication also allows students to gain a different opinion on their performance.
“You get someone with more experience, a broader experience than teachers can give,” says Alexander. “One teacher can’t give as much as, say, an adjudicator that is well known or has done a lot of festival work and has seen a lot.”
She also adds that competition is not against other students necessarily, but rather helps students mark their own progress, “to see if you can better your best, or your previous best.”
One of Alexander’s students, Julia Siclari, echoes that. Siclari, 12, has performed in festivals in the past and this year will be performing a piano duet, other piano pieces, as well as performing with her band and choir.
“I like it because the judges judge you and then you know what you can do better and what you could possibly do for next year so you can learn from your mistakes,” she says.
“My favourite part is just seeing how I did, because I always want to do better for next time.”
Maya Geerts, 14, has been performing at the festival for the past six years. This year, she’ll be playing in several piano duets, accompanying other performers, and performing a song she composed herself.
Leading up to the festival, both girls have been practicing for at least an hour a day.
Geerts says the experience she’s gained at the festival has helped her both musically and in her day to day life.
“I’ve learned how to speak and perform in front of people, because I was kind of an introvert. I was only friends with two or three people, but now I know how to open myself up more. The first time I did [festival] I was so nervous.”
Geerts says she had to ask her piano teacher for assistance half way through her first performance. Now she says, performing at the Showcase Concert is what she looks forward to.
“Sure it’s stressful first. I’m super nervous because if I mess up its like 100, 150 people in there, but after you perform you just feel so happy that you did it and I just love that feeling.”
Both Geerts and Siclari send encouragement to everyone else performing at the festival “just to wish them good luck.”
More information and the program showing the schedule are available at www.100milefestivalofthearts.ca. The public is encouraged to attend any of the daytime performance sessions, as well as the Showcase Concert on April 29 at 7 p.m. at Martin Exeter Hall.