By Contributing Author, Penny Johnson
Nearly every Canadian has heard of the Kiwanis Music Festival, a music and speech arts competition held yearly in most urban communities across the country. As the celebrated Gould scholar, Kevin Bazzana explains in his book, Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould, Kiwanis Music Festivals “had been fixtures on the English-Canadian music scene from the beginning of the twentieth century, and many people perceived them as a healthy force for cultural betterment.”
Having performed in eight years worth of Kiwanis Music Festivals myself, while growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, I have vivid memories of the volunteer ‘Kiwanians’ as they are commonly known, serving their community and youth at large, with openness and pride. While Glenn Gould never participated in any competitions as an adult – throughout his career he made many claims to the negative effects of competition – he did perform in the first three Toronto Kiwanis Music Festivals of 1944, 1945, and 1946 respectively.