The Kiwanis Club of Stratford formally approved at their Board of Directors’ Meeting on Monday, May, 11th, 2015, after discussing the topic with the members at a regular Kiwanis meeting on Monday, April 13th, 2015, that the “Signature Project” for our club be the “Kiwanis Festival of the Performing Arts.”
We are very proud to share our rich heritage of the Kiwanis Festival of the Performing Arts.
Project: Kiwanis Festival of the Performing Arts
Important Info: Every year since 1926, in the earliest days of spring, performers both young and young-at-heart eagerly await their chance to shine at the Kiwanis Festival of the Performing Arts, or ‘Kiwanis’ as the 90-year-old festival is known locally.
Impact: Each year we host approximately 5,000 participants who take part in over 500 vocal, instrumental and drama classes. Participants enjoy the benefit of learning from the highly qualified adjudicators as well as their fellow competitors, the challenge of performing in front of an audience and the discipline (as printed on the Syllabus of the very first Perth County Musical Festival in 1927), of “pacing themselves on the road to excellence.”
This event has enjoyed the support of the entire community for all of these years: over 50 volunteers, led by the members of the Kiwanis Club of Stratford and the Kiwanis Club of the Festival City volunteer 1,000 hours to the planning and execution of the event. Led by the Kiwanis Club of Stratford, hundreds of individuals and businesses donate funds to support the operations and to provide $16,000 in scholarships and awards for the participants.
History of the Project: W.B. Rothwell inspired the Perth County Music Teachers’ Association to found the Perth County Musical Festival in 1926. He was a music master at the provincial Normal School in Stratford as well as a “teacher, accompanist and coach”. He served as its president from 1927 to 1930 and from 1940 until 1951.
By 1951 the Music Teachers' Federation was finding it difficult to run the festival and W.B. Rothwell, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Stratford, convinced his fellow Kiwanians to "take as one of our major projects, the management of and complete responsibility for the Stratford Music Festival for 1952 and thereafter." This proved to be a considerable challenge for the club members and their families who volunteered on this committee. The job of the Director of Competitions was a full-time volunteer position beginning as soon as one Festival ended right through until the next one began. Isa Gould, wife of Kiwanian Duncan Gould, who was the Director of Competitions from 1957 - 1965, gave this description of the job:
"The summer months following one Festival are spent hiring adjudicators and booking halls in preparation for the following year. After the types and numbers of classes have been determined, the various test pieces must be selected, and the syllabus prepared." Isa recalled working from early in the morning until late at night, typing the syllabus, taking it to the printer, checking the proofs and taking the proofs back to the printer. Another intensive period began when the entries started coming in: "We would have to go to the post office box with shopping bags to collect them." Entries had to be acknowledged and the official program prepared. Then trophies had to be collected, repaired and readied for the upcoming competitions.
By 1987, amidst celebrations for the 60th Anniversary of the Music Festival, a 'Strategic Plan' developed by the Kiwanis Club revealed that some Kiwanians had serious reservations about their continuing association with the Festival:
"The Kiwanis Music Festival is at a crossroads in its development. Volunteer manpower shortages threaten to undermine the efficient operation of the festival...The role of Director of Competitions has traditionally been a volunteer position but places heavy responsibilities on the individual who assumes that role". Steps were taken to alleviate this situation. Funds (from the Kiwanis Club) were allocated to provide a salary for the director and to rent office space with the hope that "an office and coordinator would lift the substantial burden from volunteers and their families of organizing the Festival".
In 1991, the Club hired Margaret McCarroll as Director of Competitions. The office of the Kiwanis Music Festival was conveniently located in her home. There was enough funding provided to hire secretarial assistance to help with all of the entries as well as an assistant director during the two-week Festival period. Margaret felt that she was reasonably compensated for what she said was "the best job in the world".
With the resignation of Ms. McCarroll in 2003, Michele Boniface was hired by the Kiwanis Club of Stratford for the Director of Competitions position.
“When I started,” recalled Ms. Boniface, “I met with 40 local teachers to gather their ideas about the festival and syllabus. With their input, I have systematically upgraded the syllabus each year to adjust to new trends in the music, dance and drama worlds.”
During her ten year tenure, Ms. Boniface submitted multiple successful grant applications, including grants from the Trillium Foundation of Ontario and the Stratford Perth Community Foundation. These funds provided the financing for the Festival to purchase and customize festival-management software and develop a website that incorporates this data directly resulting in better communications with teachers and participants.
Externally, Ms Boniface moved the festival into an active role in the Ontario Music Festivals Association by bringing the syllabus in line with OMFA rules, regulations and age limits and encouraging a large and successful team of competitors to participate in the Ontario Music Festival Finals each spring.
Her creativity, enthusiasm and commitment have helped to make Stratford's Music Festival one of the most successful of its kind in Canada. In the fall of 2013, Ms. Boniface retired from her post, but continues to be a member of our Executive Committee. Janis Auster was hired by the Festival Executive Committee to take on the role of Executive Director.
Ms. Auster has set her focus on continuing to improve the functionality of the program with new technology. She also works hard to keep the dialogue open with teachers and participants to provide programs that support the needs of our constituents. Ms. Auster states “I inherited a program that was known as the ‘friendly’ festival and I am committed to continuing that tradition. It is of the utmost importance that we provide a positive, educational experience that encourages participants to embrace and advance their artistic talents.”