The late Peter Nance, then President of Camp Creative, a community organization dedicated to the promotion and development of creativity, founded the Festival in 2010. The Festival has been held annually since then and is now a major and highly anticipated event in the cultural calendar of the NSW Mid-North Coast. 2015 saw a doubling of attendances at the Festival.
After trying different times of year, the Festival is now held over the first weekend of the Spring NSW Public School holidays in September.
The Bellingen Music Festival has a growing reputation for its high quality and innovative program and is a long way toward achieving its vision to be a significant regional music festival in the Australian calendar, presenting high quality music from the classical traditions performed by a cross section of established, emerging and local artists. One intent of the Festival is to present traditional and classical music of western and non-western traditions. The original repertoire scope has now been successfully widened to include classical, jazz, contemporary and world music.
A particular aim of the Festival is to engage, enrich and inspire young and upcoming musicians whether they are still at school, studying music or actively building their professional careers. We regularly work with Music Viva in achieving this aim and very much appreciate its support. These young rising stars tell us they love coming to our festival and enthusiastically engaging with our community.
A unique and distinctive feature of the Bellingen Music Festival is its Music-by-Youth Project, which is coming into its third year thanks to financial support from the Australia Council for the Arts and the Camp Creative Board. This distinctive feature was initially the brainchild of young composer Andrew Batt-Rawden and we are grateful for his continued support of the Festival through his involvement with Limelight Magazine. The Music-by-Youth Project supports and mentors local young musicians through performance in the Festival and participation in associated workshops.
We are very proud of the fine young musicians of the Mid-North Coast and of our role, through the Music-by-Youth Project, in helping and supporting them and providing opportunities not only for them to perform in a professional setting, but also to have their compositions recorded and performed by a professional ensemble. To date, the Acacia Quartet have generously and enthusiastically engaged with this project. Composer Paul Jarman acted as a mentor to the 2015 students. In 2016, we are delighted that he has agreed to be our Composer-In-Residence. The local Bellingen Youth Orchestra will perform a new composition by Paul at the 2016 Festival.
The Festival is grateful for the support of the community. We receive much support in kind as well as financial support from the Bellingen Shire Council and the Banana Coast Credit Union. As we grow it is our aim to be financially independent.