In 1998, Atis Bankas came to Niagara-on-the-Lake with the dream of founding a music school and summer music festival. He had discovered the perfect location – one of Canada’s most beautiful towns on the shores of Lake Ontario at the mouth of the magnificent Niagara River, an area of great historical significance, surrounded by orchards and lush vineyards.
During the first years, the festival was small in scope. By the third season, audiences grew as residents and tourists began to discover the delights of the festival. The success of these early seasons moved Music Niagara (then known as the Niagara International Chamber Music Festival) to a new level of performance, with 2004 introducing more performances in the three-week festival and the introduction of several new long running series.
Over the years, Music Niagara has evolved into a world-class summer music festival that runs five weeks, featuring Canadian and international musicians performing a variety of music genres.
The festival has established itself as an annual cultural event, with a core audience and a capacity for networking with other arts, heritage and cultural organizations within the Niagara Region. The associations and partnerships that have developed amongst these organizations allow the festival to present unique and diverse artistic experiences year after year. Audiences are able to combine their enjoyment of great music with a deeper appreciation of Niagara’s rich heritage and history, its other cultural offerings and visits to wineries.
In a world of specialty Festivals, Music Niagara is proud to offer performances of the highest quality that span the musical spectrum—chamber music, choral, vocal, contemporary, country, folk, jazz—stimulating audiences with the diversity of its programs and artists. Music Niagara is recognized as a world-class summer music festival, attracting locals and tourists from around the world as well as a passionate and loyal local following.
In 2014, Music Niagara, with the help of an innovative sponsor added a unique and creative element to support young performers: The Music Niagara Performance Academy. On summer weekends during the Festival, The Academy, with resources from the Shaw Festival, provides an innovative program specialized performance training for gifted young musicians, pairing students with senior members of Niagara’s performing arts community to mentor and guide their on-stage presence.
Today, our young virtuosos program presents some of Canada’s finest emerging talents, at the formative stages of their budding professional careers. Young Virtuosos in the Schools enables teams of exceptional young musicians to travel to regional primary and high schools to present concerts and introduce students to the wonder of music. The program also supports the development of young musicians through in-school master classes and the Music Niagara Instrument Bank, making high-quality instruments available to deserving young musicians.
Niagara visitors who find Music Niagara for the first time, marvel at the stature of our performers and how wonderful it is to experience them in the intimacy of our special venues—churches, parks, wineries and restaurants, to name a few.
In 2017 the festival celebrates its 19th season. Music Niagara has become an important component of the cultural landscape in Niagara and is considered a force in supporting Niagara-on-the-Lake’s reputation as a major North American centre for the performing arts.