For many years, the Port Colborne Music Festival was a big part of the lives of many a young musician in this town. The Port Colborne Board of Education sponsored the Festival from its beginning up until 1968, when funding was no longer available and the Festival folded. Some of those musicians became teachers themselves, and wished for their students to experience the excitement and challenge of a Music Festival. In 1986, Bette Kalailieff, business manager of the Port Colborne Operatic Society, approached a group of music teachers to discuss the feasibility of reviving the Festival. With the financial support of the PCOS, the Port Colborne Festival of the Arts was formed.
A Board of Directors that consisted of Chairman Darlene Tuck; Secretary Brenda Grabell; Assistant Secretary Nancy Gyetko; ORMTA reps Linda Caldwell and Florence Schwartz; PCOS reps Charlene Snider and Wilma Tennier; NS Board of Ed. reps Lynn Brazeau and Robert Wood; WCRCSS Board reps Gerry Kirk and Lois Leach, worked many long hours to get the Festival off the ground and running.
In the spring of 1988, a 2-day Festival was held at First Presbyterian Church. Competitive classes were offered for piano and vocal students at a cost of $2.50 per entry. Classes for Elementary Primary and Junior Choirs were also offered. Then, on May 21, 1988, the first Festival of Stars Concert was held. All gold medallists were asked to perform and scholarships were given out.
Since the Festival was growing, the Board of Directors realized that it would have to find more financial aid to continue independently. Through a lot of hard work, we are now fortunate to have financial support from many businesses, individuals, service clubs and musical groups. As well, two grants have been received from Port Colborne Hydro Inc. In 2005, the Port Colborne Festival of the Arts became incorporated and received their registered charitable number, further encouraging donations from the public sector.
It is very important to hire qualified adjudicators, as they are a vital part of our Festival. Thanks to the generous financial support from all of our donors, we are able to hire top-notch adjudicators. Our first adjudicator, Janet Fothergill, was very encouraging and helpful, giving us good ideas to get started and then ways to grow. As part of our 10th Anniversary in 1997, the Board asked Ms. Fothergill to return as our adjudicator, to see how far we had come.
The Festival is ever expanding. We now offer classes in many disciplines – piano, voice, dance, instrumental (guitar, brass, woodwind, percussion, strings), individual verse speaking and composition. Classes are also available for Elementary and Secondary School choirs and bands. We also have classes available for church choirs, community choirs and bands. Volunteers make the difference! How lucky we are to have so many dedicated people give of their time to make the days of the Festival run smoothly and efficiently.
For over 30 years, the Festival has flourished under the strong leadership of the Board of Directors. Our hope is that the Festival will continue for many years to come and that many more musicians will share their talents and love of music.