An orchestra festival is a musical event designed to showcase different orchestras. The orchestras that participate perform works of their own selection, which may or may not be centered around a theme of the festival. The festival may take place over a single day or several days, depending on the number of participating orchestras.
There are two main types of orchestra festivals. The first is a judging festival which usually are oriented toward student-level orchestras, specifically those at the middle or high school level. At a judging orchestra festival, a panel of judges evaluates each orchestra based on items such as tone, rhythmic precision and dynamics. Although the judges provide feedback and rank the orchestras based on the evaluation scores, the focus is on support, improvement and learning, not winning. These types of festivals are similar in purpose to festivals held for concert and marching bands.
The second category into which an orchestra festival falls is an entertainment festival. These festivals have no judges and are organized solely to celebrate orchestra music. Often, orchestras who participate in these festivals are invited to perform by the festival director, which makes being part of the festival a privilege. When these types of festivals are at the national or international level, the orchestras involved provide some of the highest-quality playing in the world.
An orchestra festival usually is open to the public regardless of which category into which it falls. With a judging festival, however, members of the audience typically are the parents, guardians, friends and music instructors of those participating. With an entertainment orchestra festival, members of all sectors of the public attend. Often members of these audiences are avid arts supporters who contribute financially to the festival or to the individual groups who perform. Some variance exists in audience demographics based on whether the festival charges a ticket fee and the exact type of music the orchestras are slated to play.
Once a person or organization begins an orchestra festival, the festival may become an annual event. In some cases, this means that the festival takes place in the same town every time. When this happens, the hosting area often becomes known for the festival, with people referring to the festival not by its formal title, but by the name of the host city, such as "the Some City festival." In other cases, to give as many people the opportunity to experience the festival as possible, the festival board chooses a different host city for each occurrence of the festival. The board looks at factors such as the market potential for the festival, viable concert venues, traffic logistics and tourist appeal to determine which city hosts.