About UIMF

A Little History…

Andrew Dunsmore

Andrew Dunsmore

In 1927, Andrew Dunsmore organized a group of interested people to discuss the need for a festival in the central and upper island area. Assisted by Mr. R.T. Coveney, this idea was realized with the first annual competition being held May 17 – 18, 1928 in St. Andrew’s United Church. This first Festival had 125 entries in choral, vocal, instrumental and elocution (speech) classes. Folk Dancing was added in 1930.

The Upper-Island Musical Festival Association was registered under the BC Societies Act in 1934. The Festival was temporarily discontinued in 1943 due to World War II. In 1955, Dunsmore and others revived the Festival adding tap, maypole dancing, piano and accordion to the list of entries. In 1960, the first Honours Performance was held at Nanaimo District Secondary. The first Dance Gala was in 1984 at Beban Park Social Centre.

Present Day

The Upper Island Musical Festival has grown to over 2000 entries and 3600 participants. Most of our competitors come from within our geographic area of Bowser to Ladysmith. but a growing number attend from other areas of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. Today’s Festival has sections in piano, brass and woodwind, strings, vocal, speech and dramatic arts and dance. The Festival offers all participants an opportunity to perform and appreciate the performances of others.

The Upper Island Musical Festival Association is a self-supporting, non-profit society registered under the Societies Act of British Columbia. Membership is open to anyone upon payment of a small annual fee. All members are volunteers.

Revenue comes from participant entry fees, membership dues, paid admissions, and donations to the Patron Fund and a Bursary Fund. Each year, the Upper Island Musical Festival gives out more than $14,000 in bursaries to deserving participants.

Aims of the Association

The general purpose of the Upper Island Musical Festival is to advance, promote and develop the Musical Competition Festival movement and to encourage the study and practice of the speech arts, drama, music, and dance.

We quote from the Digest Report of the Federation of Canadian Musical Festivals: “Competition is essential in the conduct of a Festival. No non-competitive means can raise the same standard of performance to the same degree or create the same interest in striving to meet the highest levels of performance and appreciation. Competition is a means to an end and is not to be stressed to the exclusion of the Festival spirit. It is a means of pacing one another on the road to excellence and is to arise above rivalry.”

The Festival spirit may be defined as the joy of participating with others in seeking the highest levels in music, dance, and their kindred arts.

Inculcating this spirit in competitors, audience and the community is an important goal shared by all those responsible for organizing the Festivals.

Mission Statement

“We envision a world that appreciates music, speech and dance.”

We provide a step in the journey towards excellence in performance, with educational opportunities for students and teachers. We strive to develop well-rounded young people with positive life and performance skills who will give their gifts back to the community, ensuring that the arts will continue to flourish.


The Upper Island Musical Festival greatly appreciates the support and co-operation of all those who help to make the Festival an outstanding event in the cultural life of the community. We are particularly proud of the fact that all our workers are volunteers. Without them, the Festival could not exist. Thank you to the music stores and businesses in each community for handling the syllabus, programmes and entry forms.

The Upper Island Musical Festival is affiliated with Performing Arts B.C. and the Federation of Canadian Musical Festivals.

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