The Con Brio Music Festival turns 10 this year and co-founder Mike Vermillion couldn't be happier.

"This was my big goal, to make it to 10 years," Vermillion said during an interview with The Park Record. "I can't believe we made it."

The two-day event, which features recitals and competitions, will be held at Park City Community Church on Friday, March 28, and Saturday, March 29. (See story titled "Con Brio Music Festival schedule")

The festival is still accepting applications, Vermillion said.

"Musicians can visit our website (conbriomusicfestival.com) and apply," he said.

Throughout the past decade, the Con Brio Music Festival has become a significant event for Park City, said Dr.

Pianist Caleb Spjute performs during last year’s Con Brio Music Festival. The festival, which features piano and vocal competitions, celebrates its
Pianist Caleb Spjute performs during last year's Con Brio Music Festival. The festival, which features piano and vocal competitions, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. (Photo courtesy of Mike Vermillion)
Bryan Stanley, who has helped Vermillion with programming from the get go.

"We worked hard to get our name and reputation out there," said Stanley, a Park City-based composer, editor, arranger and concert pianist who teaches at the Utah Conservatory. "It has turned into a community celebration of musical excellence, for vocalists and pianists."

The original idea for the event was to raise money for the Utah Conservatory's handbills, Vermillion said.

"It was such a success in the first few years that we kept it going," he said. "There is a lot of crazy talent in Utah. We draw a lot of competitors from Provo, Layton, Salt Lake City, Park City and Heber.

"I've also had an inquiry from a woman in Tooele and last year we had a couple of questions from people in Arizona," he said. "So our name is reaching farther than we ever thought."

The musicians of all ages will compete in different levels, Stanley said.

"We will hear from kids who are in kindergarten, adults and senior citizens who have retired," he said.

One of the youngest will compete in the composition category, where entrants will write their own music and either play it themselves or have someone else play, Vermillion said.

"In the past, we had an 8-year-old enter, but this year, the youngest person who will compete is 6 years old," he said.

Vocalist Nicola Boyle sings during last year’s Con Brio Music Festival. The festival, which features piano and vocal competitions, celebrates its
Vocalist Nicola Boyle sings during last year's Con Brio Music Festival. The festival, which features piano and vocal competitions, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. (Photo courtesy of Mike Vermillion)

The tender ages reveal a natural phenomenon, Stanley said.

"If you think about it, you give little kids crayons and paper in school and ask them to start drawing and there is little resistance," he said. "They just start doing it.

"So I think there is that same kind of creative instinct in a child when it comes to music," Stanley explained. "They'll start making things up more eagerly than you think."

He and Vermillion have seen this happen while teaching piano lessons.

"As soon as the students have that impulse to make up things," Stanley said. "We let them do it, even though we have to walk them through some of it.

"That pedagogical philosophy spills into the competition," he said. "We just want to let things happen and develop."

The Con Brio Music Festival will follow an established format, Vermillion said.

"On Friday night, following tradition, we'll have a big concert that will be presented by the Utah Conservatory faculty," he said. "The concert shows the diversity of the faculty."

In the past the concert focused mostly on classical music, but last year, it featured everything from country, folk to pop.

"We're going to do the same thing," Vermillion said. "We're going to have performances of all styles of music."

The concert is free, but the Con Brio Music Festival will accept donations.

The actual competitions will take place all day Saturday.

"We have it down as beginning at 8 a.m., but we probably won't start until around 9," Vermillion said. "The piano and vocal competitions will be the first to begin."

These competitions will be held simultaneously in different rooms.

"The Park City Community Church is letting us hold the vocal competition in its fellowship hall and the piano competition will be held in the sanctuary," Vermillion said. "Generally we go in order from youngest to oldest, but sometimes veer off that schedule."

Vermillion and Stanley hire judges who are professional musicians and vocalists.

"They are good at writing feedback and comments on the contestants' forms," he said. "But I think the vocal competitors have it harder than the pianists, because they will be judged by someone from musical theater and someone from the classical world. So the competitors will have to sings pieces in the classical style and musical-theatre style."

The competition will run until 5 p.m. and the awards recital will begin at 7 p.m.

"All the finalists, which are the first- and second-place winners from the day's competition will perform during the recital," Vermillion said. "The catch is they won't know what place they actually got when they perform because we just ask them to play and then hand out the trophies afterwards."

Other special awards and certificates of merit will also be distributed, Stanley said. "Every year we are stunned at the quality of the musicians," he said. "If you're looking to get blown away, the awards recital is the place you want to be."

Both Vermillion and Stanley said the Con Brio Music Festival could not be possible without its sponsors.

"For six years, Daynes Music in Salt Lake provides us with a Steinway model B Grand Piano," Stanley said. "Skip Daynes also donates money to us and the trophies are made by Creative Awards in Salt Lake City."

Other sponsors include Park City Community Church and Szechwan Restaurant.

"We're always looking for small businesses to sponsor us," Vermillion said. "I know during the first few years, we wouldn't have made it if it weren't for a family who supported the conservatory who gave us a donation. I would love someone to help us out so we can give cash prizes. It doesn't look like we can right now, but I'm always hoping something will happen."

The Con Brio Music Festival will be held March 28 and 29 at Park City Community Church, 4501 N. S.R. 224. For more information, email conbriomusicfestival@gmail.com , call 435-649-6292 or visit conbriomusicfestival.com.