Young musicians share talents at annual music festival

Erin McCabe
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Julia Dunn, 14, left, and Melissa Lewis, 16, are both competing in this year’s Queens County Music Festival at Park Royal United Church. It is Julia’s first time and Melissa’s third year competing in the vocal category at the festival.

The Queens County Music Festival runs from April 28 to May 3 and May 5 to 10. Performances will be held at Park Royal United Church, Dr. Steel Recital Hall, Spring Park United Church, Christian Reformed Church and Queen Charlotte Intermediate. Cost is $2, performers and children under 12 get in free. Visit for more details.

It’s that time of year again when young musicians across the Island share their many talents.

It’s Julia Dunn’s first time participating in the Queens County Music Festival. She has been singing since she was four years old and now, at 14, she decided to compete after her friend convinced her.

“We were planning on competing against each other to see who would win,” said Dunn. “But she didn’t end up being in my group. Now we’re just going to compare our results.”

The P.E.I. Provincial Music Festival is divided into four smaller festivals: West Prince, East Prince, Queens County and Kings County. Those who do well in these festivals can move on to the Provincial Competitive Music Festival, and then the National Festival.

This is the 68th year for the P.E.I. festival.

Dunn thinks the reason it’s still so popular with student musicians is it gives them a chance to share what they’ve been working on during the winter.

“I think it’s staying popular because everybody likes to compete,” she said. “You can share your talents with everybody else.”

She sang her first two pieces at Park Royal Church Monday morning and still has two more at the Dr. Steel Recital Hall.

When she first got up on stage, it was a little intimidating, Dunn said, but as she started to sing, her nerves subsided.

“It’s pretty nerve-wracking at first, I had no idea what was going on. But I’m getting the hang of it,” she said.

It isn’t only first-timers who get nervous.

Melissa Lewis is no stranger to the Queens County Music Festival. After years competing in the piano category, three years ago she switched to voice.

She said she still gets a bit nervous.

“When you’re sitting on the bench waiting for them to be like ‘Melissa Lewis,’ you get really nervous, but once you actually step up on the stage, it kind of goes away, to an extent,” she said.

Lewis, like Dunn, believes the music festival is a great way for students to share their many talents in front of an audience.

“If we just practise at home by ourselves, or in front of family or just our friends, (we’re) never going to get that experience to know what it’s like to be able to perform in front of like — even if it’s only 30 people — it’s still a very good experience,” said Lewis.

She said competing makes her want to push herself to be better. She isn’t a fan of the new way of judging, in which you compete with yourself and not against your group.

Instead of there being a gold, silver and bronze with honourable mentions within a group, the new system allows for everyone in the same group the chance to win gold at the same time.

“It’s good to have competition against yourself, but you want to beat other people more than you want to beat yourself.”

Organizations: Park Royal Church

Geographic location: Iceland

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