Charitable Choices: Cathy MacRae of Alberta International Band Festival

The Alberta International Band Festival is a non-profit dedicated to giving school and community bands a platform to perform and receive constructive feedback. We spoke to Cathy MacRae, Director of Operations, to learn more about what they do.

Alberta International Band Festival

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

The Alberta International Band Festival is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a performance platform for outstanding junior high/middle school, high school and community bands. Each ensemble has the opportunity to come and perform for a panel of adjudicators in an actual performance venue. Afterwards, the band received feedback from the adjudicators on their performance, along with a 30-minute clinic workshop where the adjudicator celebrated many of the good things the group was already doing and made some suggestions on what they could do to get to the next level. There are two Festivals run each year, one in Calgary and one in Edmonton. Both groups are run by a committee of volunteers, and overseen by a provincial board. Organizers are committed to providing participants with a valuable and stimulating educational experience. Our tagline is “Where young Albertans learn to play, and play to learn.”

What problem does it aim to solve?

Our organization gives school and community bands (concert bands and jazz ensembles) an opportunity to get out and perform in an actual performance venue (rather than the school gym) as well as the opportunity to receive feedback and learn from an expert music educator. It is an enrichment activity that complements and reinforces the work that our band teachers are already doing in the schools and with community groups.

When did you start/join it?

The Alberta International Band Festival is celebrating its 53rd year in 2024! I started with the organization around 1997.

What made you want to get involved?

At the time, I was a new band teacher for the Calgary Board of Education. This organization was originally started and run primarily by band teachers and music industry liaisons from local music stores as volunteers. I was “voluntold” by some of the more senior band teachers in the area that I needed to get involved, and I did. I stay because I believe in the educational opportunities that AIBF provides to both young musicians and their teachers when they participate.

What was the situation like when you started?

There is a core committee of volunteer band directors, industry liaisons, and sometimes people who just believe in music education who look after the planning and organization of the festival. Over the years, the faces have changed, but their goal and desire to provide educational opportunities for young musicians and “young at heart” musicians remains the same. (Some of our community bands contain many adults and seniors from all walks of life who just have a desire to get together and play music with adults with similar interests.)

How has it changed since?

It has brought musicians and enthusiasts together.

What more needs to be done?

Right now, we’re searching for additional volunteers that we need to actually keep things running behind the scenes during the actual festival. (See below for details)

How can our readers help?

The Alberta International Band Festival is run by volunteers. During the festival itself (Concert Bands are February 21st – 27th at the University of Calgary Rozsa Centre and Jazz Ensembles are March 5th – 7th at the Polaris Centre for the Performing Arts in Balzac) we need approximately 120 volunteers to help with the behind-the-scenes work in running the festival. This includes working the Registration Desk, helping our bands navigate through the performance and clinic spaces, introducing the groups, and similar tasks like that. Nothing too strenuous or requiring lots of background knowledge. We’re just looking for people who enjoy working with young people, enjoy music, and want to contribute and help out.

Do you have any events coming up?

We have two primary festivals that are run each year. Our Concert Band Festivals runs for 7 days from February 21st – 27th at the Rozsa Centre at the University of Calgary. Our Jazz Ensembles run the following week over three days from March 5th – 7th at the Polaris Centre for the Performing Arts in Balzac.

Where can we follow you?


PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

We would have to give a shout-out to an organization that offers similar performing and educational opportunities to amateur musicians and performers – the Calgary Performing Arts Festival. It runs this year from April 15th – May 4th, 2024 at various performing venues in and around Calgary. They not only do bands, but also provide similar experiences for all kinds of performers – piano, vocal, guitar, strings, choirs, woodwinds, speech arts, musical theatre, brass, chamber ensembles, percussion and orchestra.


About Stephanie Prentice 18 Articles
Stephanie Prentice, originally from Southern Ontario, now calls Alberta home, where she thrives on embracing life to the fullest. As a dedicated grant writer, she uses her expertise to support non-profit organizations in making a difference. In her spare time, Stephanie crafts sustainably developed mittens to combat Canadian winters. A true people person, Stephanie enjoys building connections and engaging with diverse communities. She's an adventurous soul, equally at home exploring new destinations or cherishing cozy moments. With a passion for travel and a crisp new passport, she's always ready for her next adventure, whether it's discovering warm beaches or hidden gems in the Rockies. Join Stephanie as she continues to advocate for causes close to her heart and make a positive impact wherever she goes.