The Cooper family’s four multi-talented children are all performing in this year’s Pacific Northwest Music Festival across several modalities. (Photo Brittany Gervais)

Performers gearing up for 53rd Pacific NorthWest Music Festival

More than 4,000 performers are expected to grace the stage between April 11-28 in Terrace.

The Pacific Northwest Music Festival (PNMF) is gearing up for its 53rd year in Terrace, B.C.

The 17-day event from April 12-28 showcases talented performers from multiple art disciplines, including dance, speech arts, piano, strings, guitar, band and choral. More than 1,500 entries were received this year by the volunteer-based group.

The Cooper family has participated in the festival years prior, with all four children performing across multiple different modalities. Aurora, 12, is the oldest and will be playing the piano and singing this year. Ten-year old Tawney plays the flute, harp, and piano. Rohan, 8, plays piano and guitar and has won two provincial World Conservatory awards for his speech art performances. Five-year old Sebastian will be joining his brother Rohan for a joint prose performance this year, but knows how to play violin along with the rest of his siblings.

The talented group practices four to five times a week throughout the year, but Aurora said they ramp up their efforts a month and a half before the festival begins.

Bonnie Juniper, president of PNMF, has been part of the festival for the past 30 years. Adjudicators come from all over the province and sometimes the U.S. to critique and evaluate each individual performance. To keep standards high, Juniper said the panel of nine judges rotates every two years to make sure their assessments remain objective.

Students can win cash prizes through different donations in their individual classes, but to be eligible to win scholarships they must have competed three times previously in the festival. When everyone has played, the adjudicators look back over all the students they heard and pick one performance from the junior, intermediate and senior levels.

READ MORE: New executive elected to Pacific Northwest Music Festival board

Performances that are particularly outstanding play together on Friday, April 27 for a final competition before the Gala Evening on the following day. The 136 awards, scholarships, and trophies presented are valued at over $13,000.

“That’s why the last Friday night of the festival is an amazing night,” Juniper said. “You can see everything and chose to see whichever discipline you like the best.”

This year’s adjudicators include Joslin Romphf Dennis, a soprano singer who has performed in prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall in New York City, and dancer Twyla Taylor who has choreographed several musicals, including Beauty and the Beast, and is in her 28th year of teaching according to PNMF’s website.

While the festival does have a competitive nature, Juniper stresses that the focus should not be on winning anything, but on the quality and growth of the performance itself.

“Today, you played your piece really, really well. But tomorrow, it could have been totally different and the other person could have an edge on you,” Juniper said. “We don’t want winning to be the issue.”

PNMF is the only festival that does not charge admission throughout the two weeks of performances, excluding the Friday and Saturday evening events.

Approximately 4,000 people from Smithers, Houston, Prince Rupert and the surrounding area grace the stage over the course of the festival, with participants ranging in age from five-years old to 80-year old retirees.

This year’s PNMF schedule can be found below:


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