The Festival History

The Festival was founded in 1994 by the late Ursula Callus, then President of Pro Musica, a community organisation with a long history of providing support to emerging musicians.The Festival has been held annually since 1997 and is now a significant event on the ACT cultural calendar.  

The Festival is held over 10 days in the month of May each year and features concerts, lectures and films held in our national institutions and Canberra’s iconic architectural spaces. We presented our 22nd festival in 2016.

The Canberra International Music Festival has achieved a national reputation for presenting an art music program which is both highly innovative and of exceptional quality.  While the Festival’s early focus was on chamber music, and it remains true to its core, its scope has broadened to include classical, jazz, contemporary and world music. Performances are largely acoustic and emphasis is placed on finding intimate venues with exceptional acoustics.

A gift of $630,000 from philanthropist Barbara Blackman for the 2006-2008 festivals greatly assisted the Festival’s growth and provided for the development of a strong program of contemporary notated music. As a result, the Canberra International Music Festival is seen as a national leader in the commissioning and premiering of new musical works.

Our growing reputation for high quality and innovative programming is reflected in the steady growth in audience numbers.  In the last seven years, the Festival has more than doubled its box office income and tripled its attendance. Ticket sales in 2016 were at record levels with sell-out concerts and over 6,400 attendees.  The Festival received strong critical acclaim:

If this kind of courageous and intelligent programming indicates the future direction of the Canberra International Music Festival then the music community should be very pleased.
With such a selection of talented local and international musicians, the final day of the 2016 Canberra International Music Festival reminded us of Canberra’s prominence as the national capital and its status as a truly international city.


The Festival receives extensive local and national radio coverage due to our partnerships with 666 ABC Canberra and ABC Classic FM which broadcasts a number of our concerts each year, including live broadcasts during the Festival. Through our relationship with ArtSound FM the Festival also gains wide coverage through community radio stations around Australia.

We are proud of our growing reputation as Australia’s most innovative, accessible and inspiring fine music festival. Festival performances are highly reviewed in local media and we have a growing national profile. The Festival has won Canberra Critics Circle Awards in 2002 and 2008. In 2011, it was awarded the (ACT) Australian Institute of Architects Clem Cummings medal for services to architecture for our Amazing Spaces concert series. In 2012 we received the Australian Music Centre’s Art Music award for ACT Performance of the Year, a Canberra Critic’s Circle award and a Music ACT music award (MAMA).

The Festival is supported by the ACT government (ArtsACT, Events ACT) and the Australia Council for the Arts.  Pro Musica currently receives multi-year funding under the Australia Council for the Arts Key Organisations – Emerging category, a reflection of our growing contribution to our art-form and the national cultural infrastructure.