There are about two months left before the start of the first annual Strathmore Performing Arts Festival.

The festival will take place from March 30 to April 9.

The event will give young artists the ability to showcase their skills and receive feedback from industry professionals in a non-competitive arena.

Categories of performances include: piano, voice, musical theatre, band, choir and instrumental.

“We are so excited to be presenting our first inaugural festival March 30 to April 9,” said Carolyn Steeves, president of the Strathmore Performing Arts Festival.

“We are so excited to be able to offer to opportunities to our local music students in voice, band, choir and instrumental,” she said. She explained how important it is for young performers to be able to showcase their skills right here in Strathmore at local venues like the Strathmore United Church, Ecole Brentwood Elementary School, Strathmore High School and the Strathmore Alliance Church.

So far with the deadline for entries on February 1, there are already 135 entries.

“Personally my own piano studio I have over 95 per cent participation,” said Steeves. “All of my students were very excited to participate in the festival, they wanted to be there, to be part of the very first festival in Strathmore,” she said.

“A lot of these students in the past have not participated in festivals. Some of them have participated in the Calgary Kiwanis Music Festival, or the Drumheller and District Music Festival. But a lot of them it was too much. It was too much of a drive, it was too much of an imposition for their family, and time off work or missing school,” she explained.

With the festival being in Strathmore, it gives students the opportunity to perform before their friends and families. “The students are exited to perform for their families and their friends and the parents of my students have been incredibly supportive,” she said.

Loralee Laycock, vice president of the Strathmore Performing Arts Festival says she feels optimistic for the future of the town, now that it has its own music festival.

“Strathmore is a great town with lots of resources and opportunities for kids to participate in all kinds of different things,” she said. In particular she said that she and Steeves feel very passionately about participation in the arts.

“Both of us have private studios and teach our own students. It’s really exciting to think about having something right here in Strathmore that not only the kids can participate in, but also that the parents can come out and support,” said Laycock.

The group hope that members of the community will attend the festival and support the students in their various classes.

“It gives them an opportunity to support arts in our community, and encourage these kids to come back year-after-year as we hope that the festival will be ongoing for years to come,” said Laycock.

“We have opted to make this festival a non-competitive festival, which means that the kids still come, they perform their pieces, they have an adjudication and they are given a rating. They are not given a placement,” she said.

Students aren’t told someone is the best. “We want kids to continue to perform and be given a feeling of encouragement as they go about their particular form of art,” she said.

The group has also started a sponsorship campaign and a scholarship initiative to help young performers continue their education in their chosen discipline. The festival is a non-profit entity.

They are presently looking for financial donations from local businesses and organizations. The funds will be used to help pay for operations, insurance, adjudicator fees and rental of venues

“We have a whole note, a half note, and a quarter note sponsor, and those are different monetary values that people can give to the festival to help with the running for the festival,” said Laycock.

Any funds given for scholarships will be given directly to the performers involved in the festival.

Steeves explained that their first whole note sponsor was the Strathmore Times, they have also received sponsorship support from the Strathmore Lions Club.

“We are very excited that not only they have decided to be a whole note sponsor, but they asked us to do a taste of the festival at their 80th charter night which is coming up very soon in two weeks at the Strathmore Civic Centre on February 16. We have nine young performers who will be doing a 30 minute showcase of things to expect at the festival,” she said.

A very touching whole note sponsor who has come forward is Lynn Fair, who donated funds in memory of her late mother Mary Mercer.

She was instrumental to the community, says Steeves. Mercer was the first music teacher in the town of Strathmore, she explained.

“She was my first accompanist when I got my job at what was then Brentwood School. I was just a green behind the ears young teacher. She would come in every week and help me and mentor me. That sponsorship to be has been very, very special,” she said.