Ottawa Kiwanis Music Festival Gives Local Musicians a Chance to Shine

By Ralph Tweedie, Manotick Kiwanis

It has been said that music is the most popular language. No matter what culture we are from, everyone enjoys music. With instant access to many forms of visual entertainment, music is still a central part of our daily lives.

Young people are often inspired by their favourite artists to develop their musical talents. Unlike children who play team sports, young musicians typically have very limited opportunities to perform publicly and receive feedback. Every year the Ottawa Kiwanis Music Festival (KMF) improves this through their annual music competition.

The festival has been in continuous operation since 1945. In 1985 the Kiwanis Clubs of the National Capital Region took on shared responsibility with other volunteers for the festival. The name of the organization was then changed to the Kiwanis Music Festival. Our annual event has maintained a steady growth in the number of entries ever since. 

The 79th festival runs from April 5th until April 20th in various locations around Ottawa (see link below). Approximately 8,000 young participants will perform for a combined audience of over 15,000 people. This is possible due to the efforts of over 300 volunteers. Ottawa area Kiwanis Clubs, and friends and families of the Music Festival organizers dedicate over 9,000 hours of their time.

The competition includes voice, choir, piano, strings, musical theatre and band. Adjudicators are registered teachers, many with degrees from schools like Julliard. They come from all over Canada, the United States, and other countries to evaluate and advise students on how to improve their skills.

For many years the Kiwanis Club of Manotick has been in charge of the Musical Theatre section. Children as young as 8, dress in costumes from their chosen musical and sing songs that illustrate the best of their voices. The young participants are encouraged with helpful comments from the adjudicators. Musical Theatre alone requires a volunteer commitment of over 30 Kiwanis members.

On May 16th at 7 p.m., the Festival Highlights Concert will be held at the Algonquin College Commons Theatre (see Link below). The show will feature performances and highlights of this year’s festival plus a former winner. Last year featured former festival participants, siblings Bryan and Silvie Cheng. It was a great evening geared to everyone, not just classical music lovers.

The KMF is piloting a program to find performance opportunities for music students of all levels throughout the year. As part of this pilot, the Manotick club sponsored a performance at Dickinson Days 2023. It featured young violin students and a musical theatre performer. More recently, violin students played at the Manotick Place Retirement Community.

Everyone is welcome to attend the competitions as well as the Festival Highlights Concert. For current information on individual competitions and venues go to and select Syllabus from the menu.