Posted by Bill MacKay on Dec 02, 2019
Quinte Rotary Music Festival began in 1969 under the chairmanship of Rotarian Linton Read.  "Our aim is to create a healthy, competitive situation by which we can encourage the musical talent of children, young people and adults in our area", said Ken Wormald, Club President of that year.  "There are dozens of similar festivals across Canada receiving tremendous support.  We feel this is one of the most exciting musical events for Belleville in 30 years".  It was also pointed out that the Festival was not seen as a money-making project for the Club, but rather as a service to the Quinte area.  The planning of the event took literally dozens of Rotarians.  As this was a first for the local Club, everything had to be done and learned from scratch.  Halls had to be rented as well as pianos.  Adjudicators had to be engaged, tickets sold, programs prepared, advertising published, entries received, schedules made up, prizes obtained, certificates printed, scholarships sought out, etc.  The first year there were 32 sections of competition, with as many as a dozen classes in each section.  In total, there were 413 classes of competition, with well over 1,000 individual participants.
The Festival was a huge success and it was decided to continue the event on an annual basis.  By 1972 the participants then had reached the 1,900 level (about 1,300 in 1971) with scholarships awarded amounting to $1,400.  There were several innovations in 1972:  organ competitions were held for the first time (at St. Andrew's Church) and a band competition was added.
The 1975 edition was the biggest Festival to that point and it was the first year the Festival was jointly sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Belleville and Trenton.  The 10th Annual Festival in 1978 saw the addition of dance competitions.  This served to show case the talents of students at the Quinte Dance Centre, then still in its early years of operation.  In 1985 the dance section of the Festival was dropped due to lack of sufficient entries.
The Rotary Club of Picton joined Belleville and Trenton as co-organizers of the Music and Dance Festival in 1979.  Then Past District Governor Wilf Wilkinson, co-chairman of the Festival, said the expansion to include Picton came through a suggestion of the school boards.  The impact of the Picton participation was evident the following year when a record number of entries were received.  Festival chairman, Past President George Zegouras, said "we have 582 entries and compared to the previous high of 508 in 1978, this is going to be the best year ever for contestants".  There was a drop in entries the following year, the reason cited as being the late distribution of the syllabus, but entrants rebounded in 1983 to 653.
As of 1986 the Festival was still going strong with about 450 entries for the 18th annual competition with a new generation of participants involved.  An appropriate touch for the latest Festival was the appointment of Dr. Gregory Butler as adjudicator in the piano section.  Butler is a Belleville native who has gained a world-wide reputation as a concert performer and teacher.
In 2019 the 51st Annual Music Festival featured 369 entries, representing the various disciplines of music.  A new feature included the adjudicator travelling to schools for band and choir competitions.  Many festival participants have graduated from university with degrees in music and are enriching the lives of others with music as an avocation in part due to their participation in the Quinte Rotary Music Festival.