My wife, Sue, taught piano in Maidstone for many years and she always thought it ridiculous that the county town of Kent was one of the few large towns lacking its own educative festival for amateur musicians. Many other music teachers she knew felt the same way, and so it is for this reason that in 2007 she decided to organise one herself. The inaugural festival, mmf08, took place at the end of November 2008 and was very well received by participants, adjudicators and sponsors. The festival was also visited by a representative of the British and International Federation of Festivals for Music, Dance and Speech, and received praising comments; our festival became affiliated to the Federation shortly afterwards.
This festival is different from anything that previously occurred in Maidstone in that, like many festivals elsewhere, it provides opportunities for amateur musicians of all ages and levels of ability to perform individually to an audience and to receive educative adjudication from highly qualified musicians. All entrants are awarded a certificate, classified according to merit, and a personal written adjudication on their performance. The element of competition is kept to a minimum in order to encourage performers to learn from one another. There are both competitive and non-competitive classes, and the festival provides a friendly and supportive platform for musicians to share in the excitement of making music. Maidstone Music Festival, a non-profit organisation, now promotes a prestigious annual event which gives pleasure and real value to performers and listeners alike, and the most frequently heard comments from participants are that they had found our festival not only educative but also entertaining and great fun!
Encouraged by our initial success, we expanded the scope of the festival by adding categories - Plucked Strings; Accordion, Concertina, Harmonica; and Mixed Ensembles – to those of Piano, Bowed strings, Woodwind/Brass/Recorders, and Singing, and also by extending the range of classes. This year we are introducing, among other things, non-competitive classes for family ensembles within each category. In common with similar festivals, however, we have had disappointingly few entries from players of wind instruments and we are at pains to do what we can to stimulate greater interest.
Maidstone Music Festival 2011 will be held at Invicta Grammar School on the weekend of 26/27 November, 2011, with a concert on the evening of Saturday 3 December.