In her home town of Burnaby, B.C., Grade 11 student Maia Smith is one of the top clarinet players around.

But this week, in Ottawa, she's finding herself just one in a pack of 10,000.

“It’s hard because everyone here is the best in their city, and then you come here and there are better people,” she said.


“But it’s inspirational to come here and see people who are better than the ones who think they’re the best.”

The young musicians are attending the 36th annual Musicfest, a week-long festival that draws the top 300 orchestras, choirs and ensembles from 89 regional festivals across Canada.

Jim Howard, executive director of Musicfest, said the students represent the top musical programs in Canada. Over 36 years of the program, Howard said there's a good chance that any working musician in Canada probably played in Musicfest at one time. Bryan Adams and Diana Krall are alumni.

While they are here, performers will be judged in the competitive part of the festival against a performance standard.

“They are being evaluated on the basis of how well they play the music that they have chosen,” he said.
Individual outstanding performers from each group can earn a share of $100,000 in scholarship money.
The cash was not something on Smith’s mind yesterday, though.

“Being with a whole bunch who really love playing music, is something that is really inspirational,” she said.
Performances are open to the public daily at the National Arts Centre, while jazz bands will be performing at the University of Ottawa and choirs at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church.