Thursday, October 22, 2015

Competitive Music Festivals

Competitive Music Festivals

by Liz Childs
  Trustee, British & International Federation of Festivals
Founder, Bedfordshire Woodwind Academy
Teacher & Flautist

A Music Festival is a community event offering a performance platform for amateur musicians, allowing them the opportunity to perform either a set piece or a piece of their own choice to an audience and receive constructive feedback from an Adjudicator.
Most festivals are what we call 'competitive', although there are some that are non-competitive festivals and others which offer a mixture of both.
In competitive festivals each performer will receive a mark within a category, which is arrived at by the Adjudicator adhering to a set of criteria and descriptors. These are usually published in the syllabus and sometimes in the programme as well. There will therefore be a winner of each class.
Many festivals have trophies which are awarded providing a certain standard has been achieved. There are also medals and certificates to be gained. Some BIFF festivals have been running for very many years and in fact some were supported by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar so there is an impressive history. There are nearly 300 in the UK and some International ones too.

Who can take part?

Anyone who is an amateur musician, though the performer can be accompanied (if appropriate) by their teacher or a professional accompanist. Some festivals actually engage the services of an accompanist.

How do I find out about my local Festival?

Visit and you will discover an interactive map showing you all the festivals in the UK and lots of other useful information too. Most festivals have their own websites these days.

How do I enter?

You will be required to complete an entry form, either online or as a hard copy, which will either be on the festival website or in the syllabus. There is a small fee but these are always really reasonable. You will be required to pay when you submit your entry.

How do I know what to play?

Festivals produce a syllabus which is unique to their festival in which you will find all the types of classes available for entry. There is usually a very wide range of classes - some are repertoire genre specific, some are organised by grade and others maybe organised by age. Some festivals offer 'own choice' and some require 'set pieces', whilst some may include both.

I've never performed in public before!

It really doesn't matter. There will certainly be a suitable class for you to enter and it's important to remember that, as with everything we do in life, there always has to be a first time we do it!

What should I expect on the day?

You will have received notification from the festival as to the time of your class. Programmes and tickets for the audience will be available on the door. You will perform in 'your class', listen to all the other performers and then wait for the adjudicator to finish writing the comment sheets. Once the adjudicator has decided placings within the class, he/she will then get up and speak to everyone in the venue, giving informative and constructive feedback on the performances and then announcing the placings - e.g. 3rd/2nd/1st or whatever the festival has decided upon in terms of winners and runners up etc.

What are the benefits of performing in a Music Festival?

The benefits are numerous, but the really important ones include:
  • The opportunity to share with a live audience a piece you have learned and really enjoy.
  • Experiencing the feeling of satisfaction of preparing and then delivering a piece.
  • Discovering a great deal about yourself as a performer and experiencing the 'buzz' factor - this could in fact be life changing.
  • Developing one's own communication and expressive skills.
  • Receiving valuable feedback and constructive criticism.
  • Listening to others either playing/singing a piece that you may never have heard before or playing/singing a piece you know and can then compare interpretations of.
  • Having to think on one's feet, deal with nerves and cope and continue if things don't go quite as planned.
  • Having the opportunity to play in a notable local venue and adjusting to a new and quite possibly exciting acoustic.

So go on, give it 'a Go'!

To find a festival close to where you live, visit
where you will find an interactive map alongside lots of other useful information.

I am always happy to help anyone with any aspect of the above
so please feel free to get in touch.


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