April 23rd, 2024

Hitting the right keys: Rotary Music Festival a showcase of young talent

By BRENDAN MILLER on March 5, 2024.

Seven-year-old Charlie Break plays "I Spy" during his piano solo concert during the 69th annual Medicine Hat Rotary Music Festival at the College Cultural Centre Monday.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER


Music is the air throughout the city, with the 69th annual Rotary Music Festival is in full swing showcasing young musical talent in the region.

The next generation of artists will be performing in several disciplines including piano, choral, speech, musical theatre as well as strings and guitar and brass, wood winds and composition.

Approximately 1,000 children participate in the two-week festival from ages six to 17, including seven-year-old Charlie Break, who performed in his first solo piano concert Monday afternoon.

Break has been learning piano for more than three years and says he started playing after being inspired by his father.

“My dad plays and he was born with a big talent so I think that’s why,” says Break, who told the News he was a little nervous before his performance but “felt a little bit better after.”

Fostering that confidence in young children is part of the festival’s philosophy, and longtime organizers say they try to create a supportive environment for participants.

“I think my favourite kids are the first timers because they are nervous, and they don’t really know what to expect,” said Delinne Lorentzen, festival organizer. “And then they work up their courage and they do this thing that’s really hard and when they’re done they come out and they’re so happy.”

Sisters Debbie, 12, and Rosanne Wurtz, 10, could be seen with smiles after their solo piano concert performances. Both sisters have been learning piano for six months and told the News their nerves disappeared once they started to play.

“I was really nervous. But once I went up there, it kind of went away,” said Debbie.

Following the solo performances, volunteer adjudicators sit down with the children and provide positive feedback and advice on how to improve.

“My tempo was good. I just need to add more ‘louds and quiets,'” says Rosanne.

“What we’re trying to do is give them a place to perform in an encouraging setting that makes them want to keep making music for the future,” says Lorentzen. “The adjudicator is talking about the things they did well and how to do it even better. So really that’s our festival’s philosophy – encouragement and inspiration.”

Aside from the obvious benefit to the ears, Lorentzen says music is like learning a different language and translates into success in areas like self discipline, work ethic and academia.

“A lot of people talk about music helping your brain develop,” explains Lorentzen. “For example, kids who are in music are usually really good at math, which makes sense if you think about time signatures, four-four time and rhythm.”

Medicine Hat joins 35 similar festivals held throughout Alberta over the next couple months and each festival gets to send its top performers for each age category to a provincial festival in May.

A large portion of the festival is held at the Medicine Hat College Cultural Centre. St. John’s Presbyterian Church is hosting choral performances throughout the day on Wednesday.

The festival wraps up with the popular Rose Bowl performance March 15 at the Medicine Hat College Theatre.

The Rotary Club is selling raffle tickets and accepting donations to support the music festival.

A full schedule can be found online at rotarymusicfestival.com.

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