OUR HISTORY From humble beginnings to cultural fixture
The Festival was founded in 1994 by Pro Musica, a community organisation dedicated to supporting emerging musicians. Initially a chamber music festival, recitals were held in homes and embassies, and then, as audiences grew, in progressively larger concert venues. This culminated in the move to its principal venue in the Fitters’ Workshop, a reclaimed industrial building with exceptional acoustics, and a treasured piece of Canberra’s heritage. This period saw the development of a concert series that connected music to Canberra’s unique cultural collections and architectural sites, which has grown to become a staple of the Festival’s program.
CIMF’s artistic scope has gradually broadened from its early focus on chamber music. Today it accommodates the breadth of the Western classical tradition – early and medieval music, baroque, classical, romantic, 20th Century and new music – alongside classical traditions from around the world, diverse Indigenous music, and the spectrum of contemporary art music, including jazz.
CIMF’s identity has been shaped and distinguished by the strength of its curatorial vision. Under Artistic Directors Nicole Canham (2004-08), Chris Latham (2009-14) and Roland Peelman (2015-present) the Festival has become a unified experience: a multi-day program as a coherent and intellectually stimulating journey in music.
A growing reputation for high quality and innovative programming has seen a steady growth in audience numbers. Over the recent period, the Festival has more than doubled its box office income and tripled its attendance. The 2019 festival was the biggest yet, attracting record attendances and strong critical acclaim. After the cancellation of the 2020 festival and despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, CIMF returned in 2021 with musicians from all over Australia and a record number of concerts and attendance.
OUR PURPOSE Creating new music
The creation of new work has remained an intrinsic part of the identity of the Festival, which now has a proud track record as a leading commissioner of new Australian music, especially music by women, First Nations artists and emerging composers.
In 2006, a significant philanthropic gift from Barbara Blackman expanded CIMF’s capacity and artistic ambition, laying the foundation for a substantial commissioning program.
CIMF commissions traverse a broad spectrum of music-making practices, traditions, and technologies, and also include significant international works, such as Arvo Pärt’s Fourth Symphony.
All works commissioned by CIMF are fully funded by donors.
OUR PURPOSE Young Artists
The Festival embraces our youth as creative drivers, and the innovation that comes from the interactions they offer within a festival environment. Our creative curatorial practice, with emphasis on new work, provides a rich context for young musicians.
CIMF gives early-career performers the opportunity to collaborate with composers and leading international performers. We provide opportunities to exceptional young artists who are still exploring their career options. Rehearsing and performing with established ensembles and artists from around the world gives them a positive and vibrant learning experience.