By Doug Hallett
The Kiwanis Music Festival of Guelph has received no band or choir entries from public elementary or high schools for this year’s festival due to teacher labour unrest and is extending the deadline in hopes that things could change.
Although the official deadline for entries has already passed for the April 8-26 festival, “I can hold off until the end of March, I think,” said festival coordinator Heather Fleming.
Bands and choir competitions are held towards the end of the festival during the week of April 22, she noted.
Overall, entries for Guelph’s 2013 Kiwanis festival currently total about 1,100, compared with about 1,200 for last year’s festival, Fleming said.
“Yes, the show will go on. And we are in much better shape than (the Kiwanis festival in) Toronto,” she said in an interview Thursday.
“I’m not in terrible shape, but it sure would be great to attract more.”
Fleming said she isn’t surprised at the lack of choir and band entries from local public schools, given the labour situation involving the province and the two unions representing elementary and high school teachers in public schools.
“It’s definitely a challenge, and the teachers are also disappointed,” she said.
“I’ve had lots of emails and several conversations, and I know a lot of them,” she said. “They are so disappointed and they are so frustrated by it. They love to do it (coach choirs and bands), and they know how important it is to their students and their development.Some students are still taking musical instruction as part of the curriculum, “but the extracurricular choirs and bands are not happening” in the public schools, she said.
Although Fleming has told teachers she is prepared to accept late registrations, she is concerned many teachers might not enter this year’s festival even if the labour situation is resolved and they get a go-ahead from their union. That’s because the bands and choirs haven’t been rehearsing, so teachers might think they can’t get them performance-ready in time for the festival.
“But I’m still hopeful,” the festival co-ordinator added.
Local Catholic schools traditionally haven’t participated in the local Kiwanis festival, but Fleming made a point of inviting them to get involved this year. However, few have signed up so far, she said.
This year the festival also added new disciplines – handbells & chimes, and speech arts in both English and French in solo, group, and choral speaking – in a bid to boost entries. “I’ve had very little response to that, which is disappointing,” Fleming said.
However, she has received more band and choir entries than usual from private schools.
The festival usually sees between 25 and 30 schools sending bands or choirs or both, but this year so far the number is below 10, she said.
Most of the 1,100 total entries received to this point are from individuals and groups involved in private music lessons, Fleming said.
Categories for this year’s festival include voice, piano, strings, guitar, brass & woodwinds, recorder, harp, keyboard & digital piano, pipe organ and composition.