The Strathmore Performing Arts Festival (SPAF) returns to in-person performances from this weekend and through early April, after a turbulent first few years of operation.
Carolyn Steeves, president of SPAF, said students, instructors and board members are excited to return to in-person performances after having to cancel a festival and hold last year’s festival online.
“SPAF is a festival for children playing piano, voice, string instruments, wind instruments, bands, choirs and where they come into the classroom and have the chance to perform,” Steeves said. .
Launched in 2019, the festival offers local music students in a variety of genres and mediums the opportunity to perform in front of their community and be evaluated by a professional judge.
Students can be rewarded based on their performance, with a surplus of scholarship opportunities available.
“We are very enthusiastic. This year, we have 276 applications from students between the ages of 5 and 18, and we will be awarding approximately 73 scholarships worth nearly $6,000. We are very happy to support all young musicians in and around Strathmore,” Steeves explained. “It’s a really big festival, we have an amazing arts community in Strathmore. These kids have been waiting since 2019 for a live festival so they are very excited.
The idea is that this year’s festival will run very similarly to the pilot festival held in 2019. According to Steeves, a similar number of students and age groups are performing.
Due to the timing of the pilot and last year’s festival online, for many students this will be their first time performing in front of a live audience.
Steeves added that it would be a boon for the festival that local COVID-19 restrictions have, for the most part, been lifted, as it eliminates many of the potential challenges associated with setting up events.
“We had two scenarios planned – a live festival if everything worked out well, which it has now, or maybe another virtual festival like the one we held last year,” Steeves said. “We were going to do the festival again anyway, that was how it was. We are delighted that the pandemic has subsided and we are able to offer children a live festival experience again This year.
Steves added that for music students, a festival like this is kind of like a hockey or ringette tournament for athletes, in that it exposes young musicians to their peers, creates a community and gives them the opportunity to perform.
“Playing an instrument is, unless you’re in a group or choir situation, it’s a very lonely thing. To see all the people doing what they’re doing is very powerful d to have this live experience.
The festival runs from March 26 to April 2 and will be open to the public, for a small fee of $2 to attend a performance session or $5 for an unlimited festival pass.
A schedule of performances is available online (www.strathmorepaf.com).
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