Grand Falls-Windsor's Yvonne Courtney (Kelly) has fond memories of the many Kiwanis Music Festivals over the years.
In particular, the Grand Falls Kiwanians' second Music Festival in 1962, when she was the winner of the Goodyear Gold Medal Award in piano solo.
"My gold medal, now 50 years old, is a treasure that has remained with me through my lifetime as a student and teacher involved with our Kiwanis Music Festivals since 1962," Courtney said. "What a stunning object to go with you through life. This has been with me since I was a child."
The Goodyear Gold Medal Awards were only presented in 1961 and 1962.
Other 1962 winners were Helen Jacobs (Piano Solo Bach) and Ann Brennan (Piano Solo Sonata).
According to the Advertiser achieves from April 1962, Yvonne Kelly was first in the piano solo nine years and under, with a mark of 87.
Courtney remembers well the 1962 festival, which was held for three days, April 23-25.
"I remember being so excited as a child, when I arrived at the Harmsworth Hall, which is our Town Hall today," Courtney said. "I had only seen a grand piano on the pages of a book, but on the stage that day, there was a beautiful, mahogany grand. When I went up to the stage, a Kiwanian came over and turned the curled knobs on the sides of the leather-topped bench, to make it high enough. I sat down at the piano and looked up at the lid, lifted high on a stick. I know I was bursting with excitement, because Sister, my Presentation teacher, said I played Trim the Maypole faster than she ever heard it before."
Courtney said that night in 1962, when Yvonne Kelly was called to the stage for the Goodyear Gold Medal Award, she was timid and shy.
"My mom said to hurry and go up to the stage, so I looked down at my black patent leather shoes and avoided looking up, as I walked up the aisle of the St. Michaels Auditorium. When I got to the stage, I wasn't sure why I was there, because I had already played my piece on the grand piano. Then I was presented with this lovely gold medal and asked to stay on the stage while they continued. I was also awarded the Cabot Bakery Award of $25. That doesn't sound like much now, but it was fifty years ago. After all the photos were taken, I could keep the cash award, but I had to pass back the beautiful medal."
Courtney said a few days later, her mother received a phone call, and excitedly said they had to go to Alteen's, and she recalls walking with her mother and father, Anne and Lewis Kelly, down to Alteen Jewellers on High Street.
"We didn't have a family car at that time," Courtney said. "Mr. Alteen was smiling and so nice, he passed to me a blue velvet box, which I opened, and found my medal. He knew I didn't realize that the medal was engraved. So he turned it over and there I saw my name engraved, also, Piano Solo 1962."
Through her childhood, her mother kept it in her small black jewelry box, Courtney said.
"I occasionally got to open the box and look at it and hold it, while she put on her necklace and earrings," Courtney said, adding since she was only allowed to look at it on occasion, her mother let her use her cash award to buy "something nice" and she bought a blue onyx ring with her initial on it. "She was always very mindful that I didn't leave it out. I never got to wear it in my growing up years. That came later. After I was teaching piano for a few years and I turned 18, she passed it over to me, still reminding me to pay attention to caring for it."
As the years and annual festivals went by, Courtney said she wore it to the Highlights Concerts through the years.
"Tom Howell, who I saw backstage every year for so many festivals, always took note that I was wearing my medal," she said.
Now as a retired school music teacher and church choir director, Courtney said she thinks of how her life revolved, in a very big way, around the annual music festivals.
"I see all those Kiwanians who were there year after year; some from those early years are still there," she said. "Many have passed on and their sons or daughters are carrying on the legacy. Every time I see Lou Alteen at the Festival, I see his Dad. I remember how happy he was to present that medal to me at the store. I'm sure he saw my excitement when he revealed the engraving, and my parent's pride."
Late in the 1960's, Courtney accompanied the Memorial University Extension Glee Club in Grand Falls Windsor. She then got to know Denny and Carol Goodyear, singers in the choir.
"They were perennial Kiwanians, present at 40 years of festivals for sure," Courtney said. "It was their family that provided the Goodyear Awards, the gold medals."
Also, without her knowing, in the early years of piano teaching, she taught the children of John and Dorothy Moore.
"I didn't realize until lately that the $25 award was given by their family business, the Cabot Bakery," Courtney said. "John would have had a great chuckle and been delighted to know that. Here I am today, living for the past 30 years in the home built by his parents, the owners of the Cabot Bakery."
It all started with a child playing in the Music Festival at the old Town Hall, Courtney said, and many years later, she was overwhelmed to receive the Towns Arts Award in Music for 1992 and 2002, from the office of the same old building.
Through her years as a music teacher, both school and church choirs she has directed, were recommended by adjudicators to compete at the Provincial Festival.
"Many of my students were winners of the Kiwanis Festival Scholarship, and also students from Gander won the Gander Festival Scholarship," Courtney said. "A number of students have also won the Junior Rose Bowl and the Senior Rose Bowl, and competed at the Kiwanis Provincial Festivals. A number of these students have gone on to university and graduated to become music teachers, teaching both locally and across the country. Some of them have even come back to our festival as recent adjudicators."
Even during the early years of festival, Courtney said, there wasn't enough accompanists. In the late sixties, Kiwanians thought there should be a pianist who would play for students who didn't have access to an accompanist.
"So Johnny Cater, one of the Founders, asked me if I would be the festival's official accompanist, paid to accompany," Courtney said. "I was used to accompanying vocalist and choirs, because I had a lot of experience playing for our St. Catherine's High School Choirs. But with this opportunity, I accompanied instrumentalists also."
Courtney said the only festivals she missed were the years she was away at university, and she will be involved in the 47th annual Central Newfoundland Kiwanis Music Festival which runs from March 25-31, proudly wearing her medal during the Highlight Concerts.
"For me, this medal represents a future that was presented to me, on the threshold of my lifetime, which would be full of music and friendship with wonderful music students, school, church and community choir members, handbell ringers, parents and Kiwanians who provided festivals of musical experiences."