Manitoba has a few venerable music festivals that are the cornerstone of our province's arts and culture scene. The latest fest to reach a milestone is probably the least known to the mainstream: the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's New Music Festival. In 2011, the festival celebrates its 20th season.

While most of Manitoba's festival hoopla concentrates in the summer months, the New Music Festival happens in February. And in Winnipeg there's no feeling better than tucking into a cozy seat at the Centennial Concert Hall while the north wind blows outside. Pre-show, the auditorium buzzes with an energy that melts icicles off frosty eyelashes. During the show, the performances are an absolute escape to another time and place. The excitement doesn't end with the applause, a festival highlight is the nightly After Party where fans can rub elbows and interact with the most reputed names in the modern music world. Only in a city like Winnipeg - and at festivals like New Music - are music stars and artists so accessible.

This eight-day interlude has established itself across Canada as a gathering of experimental orchestral titans. In fact, it's credited as the only annual new music festival produced by an orchestra in North America.

For this silver anniversary, the festival is welcoming back to the stage past New Music Festival luminaries such as hearing-imparied percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, Grammy-award winning Kronos Quartet and Oscar, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Corigliano. For a full description of the event, visit The New Music Festival website.

The 2011 New Music Festival happens January 29 to February 4, 2011.


Other top Manitoba music events to sing the praises of:

International Winnipeg Jazz Festival: Set on different stages throughout Winnipeg's historic Exchange district, this burgeoning festival features both up-and-comers and some of the hottest jazz and blues headliners from around the world. Act like a local and gather at Old Market Square to take in the free evening concerts on closing weekend. Date: June 16 to 25, 2011.

Dauphin Countryfest: Set in the hills of Manitoba's Parkland Region, Countryfest is Canada's oldest country music gathering. This historic Ukrainian site gets turned upside down every July long weekend when thousands gather at this jamboree to worship some of the biggest names in business. Past superstars include: Keith Urban, Faith Hill, Alabama and Rascal Flatts. This year, Toby Keith is a huge draw. This weekend has sold out over the past six years. Date: June 30 to July 3, 2011. 

Winnipeg Folk Festival: An internationally acclaimed "green festival" set against the beauty of prairie sunsets and lushness of Birds Hill Provincial Park. This 5-day celebration of people and music features over 60 acts on six daytime stages and an evening main stage. This is the place to discover a collection of accomplished and emerging artists - legends, locals, and some of the best new folk voices from around the world. Date: July 7 to 10, 2011. 

Aboriginal Music Week: Clubs and live music venues in Winnipeg's core erupt with performances from over 30 Indigenous artists from Canada, the US and around the globe. It's amazing to witness the fervor with which these artists represent their music and culture to Aboriginal youth. This event happens concurrently with ManitoAhbee: Festival for All Nations and The Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards. Date: October 28 to November 5, 2011.