Young musicians prepare for a world of performance

By Chase Myers, @chasemyers_DE

For 107 years, the National Federation of Music Clubs has been providing a platform for young musicians to bolster their musical skills and appreciation.

The state-level branch of the organization, The Illinois Federation of Music Clubs, consists of 325 members and more than 100 junior clubs for musicians under the age of 18.

SIU will host an Illinois Federation of Music Clubs festival from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Altgeld Hall and the Old Baptist Foundation recital hall.


The festival invites participants from Carbondale, Marion, Carterville, Mt. Vernon, West Frankfort and other towns in southern Illinois.

Students ages 5 to 18 are welcome to perform two prepared pieces.

Rickey Snowman, the festival organizer and federation member, said the majority of the students involved in the festival perform piano or violin pieces, but no orchestral instrument is off limits.

Once the students reach a certain age, performers can choose the second piece, but the first is chosen from a National Federation bulletin, she said.

Snowman said five to seven performers are organized into 45-minute sessions open to the public.

Each participant is evaluated by a panel of judges that maintains a non-competitive mindset but provides performers with a grade of one to five and a personal critique, she said.

Snowman said a score of five is considered superior.


“It is not supposed to be a competitive environment,” she said. “There are two judges for each session where they receive positive reinforcement of their playing and suggestions to improve their playing.”

In most cases, students have been preparing for the festival since summer, she said.

Trophies known as ‘festival cups’ are given out to students who reach certain point levels in their careers. The first benchmark is at 15 points, with the highest of 90.

She said the trophies provide motivation for students to perform for multiple years, since only five points can be received each year.

SIU has annually facilitated the festival, providing enough rooms for more than 200 participants to perform in one weekend.

This year, 18 festival performers were taught by Snowman privately, including 15-year-old pianist Carson Wang.

Wang moved to Carbondale from Atlanta three years ago and is enrolled in classes at Carbondale Community High School. 

He has been a pianist for more than eight years, this year marking his second piano performance at the festival.

Wang said Snowman has the students perform for each other in her home studio, which helps prepare them for the festival.

The festival reinforces the musical credibility for participants considering college.

“Because it is a national organization, it looks very good on a resume,” Snowman said. 

It keeps the youth motivated to continue their musical careers as well, she said.

“Some of them are contemplating stopping lessons but see that they only need five more [points] to get that cup, so they do not quit,” she said. “Sometimes it just took that extra year to get them over the hump and the next thing you know they are not quitting anyway.”

Chase Myers can be reached at [email protected]