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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette




(Posted 8:30 a.m., May 21)

Kiwanis Music Festival showcases talented young performers
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Rebecca Kalinger holds the Sandrine Craig Memorial Trophy she received during the Kiwanis Music Festival Highlight Concert on Friday. Fred Sherwin/Photo

At Le Prelude French public school in Chapel Hill they take their music very seriously, and rightfully so. In seven previous trips to the National Capital Kiwanis Music Festival the school's intermediate band has won a truckload full of awards.

But this year they managed to outdo themselves by winning the St. John's Music Trophy for best overall band performance as well as the CBC Music in Schools Award worth $2,000. Last but not least, they were invited to open the Highlights Concert, which traditonally brings the month long festival to a close, and they'll be representing the region at the provincial competition in June.

Needless to say the school's music teacher and band master Michel Rochon was tickled pink over all the accolades.

"Every time we come here we do really well, but it's still quite an honour to beat out bands like the Lisgar Collegiate band and the Canterbury High School band," said Rochon.

Harmonie Ecole Elementare Publique Le Prelude is made up of 60 students in Grade 4, 5 and 6, which represents roughly half of all the students enrolled in those Grades. Even more remarkable is the fact that they're only able to practice 45 minutes a week and none of the students take private lessons on the side.

One of the main reasons the band is so successful is continuity. Rochon has the students from Grade 3. By the time they reach Grade 6, they're already seasoned performers. The other reason their so successful is Rochon himself.

"I expect from the kids as much as I would expect from an adult. Sometimes I don't think we ask enough of our children. If you set expectations high, they will meet them and often exceed them. They just need to be challenged," said Rochon.

The Kiwanis Music Festival has been providing young musicians in the National Capital region a stage on which to perform and have their work judged by a registered adjudicator for the past 61 years. Originally called the Ottawa Music Festival, the name changed when the Kiwanis Clubs of Ottawa took over responsibility for the event in 1985.

This year more than 5,000 musicians and singers took part over a 26 day period in 16 different venues.

Simon Chow, 17, has been a regular at the Music Festival for the past 11 years. For most of those years he performed as one third of the Chow Trio along with his older brothers Stephen and Sebastien and in the process won a number of trophies and cash scholarships.

Competing in his final year at the festival, the gifted young cellist won three scholarships totalling $1,250 which will come in handy when he attends Western University next year to study business and music.

Chow says the festival provides young musicians something to shoot for every year besides the annual Royal Conservatory tests which are done without the benefit of an audience.

"It helps you grow as a musician and when you put in so much work all year, it's nice to get something back by performing in front of an audience and hearing the applause," says Chow.

Steffi Didomenicantonio is no stranger to applause. The Seventeen-year-old Fallingbrook resident has been performing in front of audiences for years and is a regular competitior in the speech arts and musical theatre categories at the Music Festival.

This year she won a pair of trophies including the Jeannette Dagger Trophy for best performance by a duet with partner Ben Durocher, and she's been invited back to perform at the Ontario Provincial Music Festival.

"I do it because I love it," explained Didomenicantonio when asked what she gets out of competing at the festival. "If I didn't do it I would be very, very unhappy."

When it comes to possessing multiple talents, Rebecca Kalinger is as multiple talented as they come.

The 12-year-old Orléans resident received four first place certificates at this year's festival – three for Grade 7 piano and one for speech arts monolgue – and four second place certificates including one for music theatre. She also received the Sandrine Craig Memorial Trophy.

"I love being busy and doing different things. You can never run out of pieces to play, monologues to recite or songs to sing," says Kalinger.

Other cash award and scholarship recipients included pianist Mimi Lam, 17, who received the Ontario Registered Music Teachers' Association Award of $100; singer Corey Arnold, 17, received the Sid Ingrey Scholarship worth $300 and the Betts Family Scholarship worth $50; Alex Lacasse, 13, won the Norman Albert Memorial Scholarship of $100 for his pop vocal performance; and Gabriel Poirier, 16, earned the Musician's Association of Ottawa-Hull cash prize of $200.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)


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