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Kiwanis Music Festival ready to roll

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

Sean Chase/Daily Observer 
Maude Wright, a student from Jeanne-Lajoie, concentrates as she performs her violin solo number during the 69th Pembroke Kiwanis Music Festival. This year marks the 70th year of the musical competition, which is held at Festival Hall.

Sean Chase/Daily Observer Maude Wright, a student from Jeanne-Lajoie, concentrates as she performs her violin solo number during the 69th Pembroke Kiwanis Music Festival. This year marks the 70th year of the musical competition, which is held at Festival Hall.

It is a tradition which has been ongoing for seven decades.


On Monday, Feb. 12, the 70th annual Pembroke Kiwanis Music Festival gets underway, a powerful mixture of musical talent and intense competition centred on Festival Hall. Over the next few weeks, the stage will serve as a platform for individuals, duets, trios, choirs, bands and dance troupes to display a broad spectrum of musical abilities and talent through 449 separate performances under the categories of strings, vocal, instrumental, piano and dance.

At stake are 72 trophies and a number of provincial scholarships. Included is a new one this year, the Glen Andrews Trophy, sponsored by Pembroke Legion Community Band. It will be presented to a worthy elementary school band, provided there are two or more bands entered in that category.

Then there's the privilege of being invited back to perform in the Festival of Stars on March 22, an encore show for the top performers to showcase their musical magic one more time.

Raghavan Vijay, who with Pembroke Kiwanis Club president Doug Fee continue to serve as co-chairmen of the music festival, said the festival is the club's signature event.

“It gives us immense pleasure to invite you back to the Festival Hall for three weeks of magnificent and delightful music,” Vijay states. “An inspirational composition can clarify, amplify, glorify and sanctify the transcendent qualities of the soul.”

“The power of music is comprehensively summed up by Plato: “Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm, and gaiety to life and to everything.”“

Vijay said the Kiwanis Club invites those attending the festival to meet the organizers, volunteers, music teachers, donors and patrons, “who have, with love, commitment, dedication, kindness and generosity, been able to make this event happen.”

“We sincerely thank the students, the teachers, the parents and donors for their unique contributions towards this cultural event,” he said.

Vijay encouraged everyone to attend the grand finale, the Festival of Stars, where the very best stars of the musical competition will be performing.

Festival Hall will be the centre of activity during the festival, which has been running annually since 1949. Each of the music festival sessions is overseen by a separate adjudicator, who evaluates all of the performances.

The festival gets underway with the piano session (Feb. 12-15) adjudicated by Susanne Hughes, who is returning to Pembroke.

She is the winner of the University of Western Ontario gold medal for high standard in performance. She received the ARCT in Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music and the A.Mus. from the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music.

Hughes began her music studies at four years of age, having studied with such distinguished teachers as Katherine Horton, Boris Berlin, George Coutts and Clifford Poole. Her professional career began as a teacher on the faculty of Alma College in St. Thomas, Ontario.

Her musical activities for the past several years have been centered around her studio in Woodstock, teaching all levels of piano. Many of her students have graduated with high honours in their Associate Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Hughes has been Director of Music at several churches. She maintains an active career as a teacher, performer, adjudicator, accompanist and music consultant, and appeared with a recital group at the International Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, Ontario. Susanne brings a wealth of knowledge gained through many years of teaching.

The dance session (Feb. 20, Feb. 22-23), is being adjudicated by Annie Chen.

She is a graduate of The School of Toronto Dance Theatre where she studied under well-established modern artists. She then went on to train in all styles of commercial dance in New York, Taiwan, Vancouver and Toronto.

Chen has performed live with Lady Gaga at MMVA 2011, PSY at MMVA 2013 and Eric McCormack for Gilda’s Club hosted by Russell Peters. She has performed in the closing ceremonies of the 2015 Pan Am Games and opening of the Parapan.

She choreographed and performed in opening numbers for a T-Pain concert, the Canadian Music Festival, and various music videos for Much Music. You can see her dancing on commercials for Tim Hortons and 7-Eleven. Some of Annie’s TV/Film credits include Full Out premiered on the Family Channel, Hollywood motion picture ”Carrie”, the spectacular series finale of “Warehouse 13”, and “Rise-abc spark” Hallmark’s One Starry Christmas movie, to name a few.

Chen has more than 10 years of teaching experience with various styles of dance and has adjudicated all over Canada. She is a member of the Professional Adjudicator’s Alliance and the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists (CADA).

The instrumental session (Feb. 27-28) is being adjudicated by John Kraus.

A northern Ontario native, he is an alumnus of the University of Western Ontario, where he studied Music Education. While a student there he studied clarinet with Jerome Summers, Robert Riesling and Robert Sheffield and conducting with Jerome Summers, Mohiro Okabe, Wayne Toews and William Gordon.

As the founding director of the Durham Chamber Orchestra and the Lakeridge Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and the Musical Director of the Clarington Concert Band and the current music director and conductor of the Northumberland Orchestra and Choir, Kraus has worked in many different genres and with many local and international talents, including violinist Mary Elizabeth Brown, pianist Anastasia Rizikov, and the Sultans of String.

He has performed with and conducted funk bands, jazz ensembles, music theatre pit orchestras, wind bands, orchestras, choirs and chamber ensembles, and dedicated more than 25 years as an educator working with high school students from around the world, sharing his passion for music.

Kraus has regularly conducted honour high school ensembles as part of the annual Conference of independent Schools Music Festival (CISMF), held annually each spring at Roy Thompson Hall, Toronto. He continues to work with students, professional, and amateur adult musicians who may have entered the arena for the first time or who have returned to something that they began as youngsters, working as a volunteer with the Liftlock New Horizons organization, Peterborough and as an instructor at the Lake Field Music summer camp, Lakefield, Ontario.

He is a member of the Ontario Music Educators Association and has led workshops on “best practices”, creativity and composition, and technology in the Music classroom. Kraus works as a coach with the winds section of the La Jeunesse Youth Orchestra, Port Hope, led by Music Director Michael Lyons. He regularly works with ensembles preparing for festivals as well as adjudicator and is a member of the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators Association (CMFAA).

The strings session (Mar. 1) is being adjudicated by Martha Gregory.

Raised in Rochester, N.Y., she studied violin, piano and singing at the Hochstein School of Music, Eastman School of Music and Roberts Wesleyan College. Her Conservatory and University classes included chamber, choral and orchestral work and she enjoyed many years playing with the Rochester Youth Orchestra and the Hochstein Symphony. To help pay for all this, she worked in offices of the schools which gave her the basis for her festival work.

Gregory always knew her passion was teaching. After moving to Canada, she established a private studio in Pickering, Ontario that she still maintains. She currently performs with the Ontario Philharmonic Orchestra and is principal violinist with the Hamstrings of Durham Trio. She has been an active freelance performer in classical voice, music theatre, violin and piano.

Gregory has been involved with music festivals for the last 29 years and been Executive Director of the Pickering GTA Music Festival for 16 years. She is in her eighth year as President of the Ontario Music Festivals Association and has enjoyed adjudicating all across Canada. Adjudicating has become her new passion and she is inspired by the performances and feedback from all the people she has met throughout Canada.

Wrapping up the competition is the vocal session (Mar. 5 to Mar. 8), adjudicated by Brent Thiessen,

Born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, he began performing at age five in school productions, local children's theatre, and church choirs. He trained in piano under the Royal Conservatory of Music from age seven, and studied cello from age 14. By age 17, Thiessen was the principal cellist of the Thunder Bay Youth Symphony and, without any formal training, was a regional overall champion in competitive voice. At age 18, he began his studies in the prestigious musical theatre program at Sheridan College, outside of Toronto, Ontario.

In New York City, Thiessen has been trained and mentored by some of Broadway's greatest directors, choreographers, musical directors and artists. A member of Canadian Actors' Equity Association, he has appeared in more than 30 professional productions over the past decade.

In addition to his work in plays and musicals, Thiessen has also traveled the world as a vocal captain and pop vocalist for Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruise Lines, and been featured on the Royal Canadian Air Farce Special celebrating Canada's sesquicentennial (CBC).

As an educator, Thiessen works with both professional and young performers. His students have been cast in Broadway mega hits Strictly Ballroom the Musical (North American premiere), Kinky Boots (original Canadian cast) and Matilda the Musical (Broadway National Tour). Others have gained acceptance to theatre programs at Sheridan College, George Brown, Ryerson, and York University.

He is a regular guest artist for Mirvish Productions, the Toronto District and York Region School Boards, and performing arts studios across the GTA. He has facilitated sold-out musical theatre intensives for aspiring professionals at Toronto's Elgin Theatre and the Toronto Centre for the Arts, connecting participants to the entertainment industry's most active performers.

In addition, Thiessen has coached for Sheridan College's prestigious musical theatre program, adjudicates dance and vocal competitions across Canada, and has been published in dance magazine Dance Studio Life. 

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