After a successful return last year, MusicFest Windsor is back again next week, this time with almost 1,700 students performing at the Capitol Theatre over three days of adjudicated jazz, concert music and choir singing starting on Monday. In this April 5, 2018, file photo, Tecumseh Vista Academy musicians are shown during their performance last year.
Dan Janisse / Windsor Star
If last year’s return of MusicFest Windsor was deemed a huge success, then what do you call this year’s followup event that’s almost 50 per cent bigger?“MusicFest is exciting — it’s like a tournament, but for musicians,” said Bernadette Berthelotte, teacher consultant for the arts with the Greater Essex County District School Board.Spread over three days at the Capitol Theatre starting early Monday morning, the regional competition is drawing 39 groups and almost 1,700 students to the downtown from as far away as Guelph. Professional adjudicators will determine which of the concert bands, jazz ensembles and choirs have the right stuff to move on to MusicFest Canada, the national festival that will attract 10,000 young musicians to Ottawa in May.Berthelotte said it will be organized chaos at the Capitol as the groups keep to tight bussing, rehearsal, performance and adjudication schedules that, on opening day Monday, go from the first elementary school concert group warming up at 8 a.m. until the last high school jazz band exits the stage at 9 p.m.They’ll never forget this experienceAfter a long absence from the scene, Windsor resumed MusicFest hosting duties last year, with almost 1,200 musicians in attendance. Regional competitions are usually hosted in school auditoriums, but the Windsor Symphony Orchestra has donated its home venue for the school instrumental and singing showcase.For most of the musicians in attendance, performing away from their home schools is a rarity, as is the opportunity to sit back and listen and gauge the musicianship of their peers.“The Capitol Theatre has world-class acoustics — they’ll never forget this experience,” said Berthelotte. Based on her own many years experience teaching music locally, she said the mindsets of the young performers are very different at such an event.“There’s a real awakening that happens to the students when they’re outside their own school community and they’re being judged by professionals,” said Berthelotte.At half-hour intervals, each participating group — from public, Catholic and private schools — gets half an hour to rehearse, then it’s half an hour on stage, followed by half an hour for evaluation and critique by an adjudicator.Concert bands perform on Monday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jazz bands hit the stage Monday from 5 to 9 p.m. and choirs perform non-stop on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.Related MusicFest Windsor is open to the public. A $5 fee gets you in, and a stamped program allows for free return at any time over the three days.To help pay for the cost of staging MusicFest, Berthelotte said “the community support has been tremendous,” including the free use of the Capitol and contributions from St. Clair College and Unifor Local email@example.com/schmidtcity