Today, the Flemish Minister for Culture, Joke Schauvliege, has granted the Flemish Community Award for Amateur Arts 2011-2012 to the European Music Festival for Young People (Europees Muziekfestival voor de Jeugd) from Neerpelt. The award ceremony took place at the start of the Week of Amateur Arts in Ghent. The jury praises the festival especially for giving more than 3,000 young people from all over the world the opportunity to meet and to get to know each other's culture, beyond territorial and ideological boundaries.
The Europees Muziekfestival voor de Jeugd (EMJ) in Neerpelt started as a small initiative of the local Davidsfonds division in 1953. In a short period of time, however, the festival developed into one of the leading youth music festivals in Europe. For its 61st edition in early May, 3,500 young people of 107 youth and children's ensembles from 22 different countries will be coming to Neerpelt. To say that the festival has an excellent reputation would be the understatement of the year.
EMJ has vocal and instrumental editions which alternate each year. In 2013, it is the turn of the fanfare bands, brass bands and orchestras to compete against each other before a professional jury. Because the festival is also a competition, Neerpelt succeeds each time in getting the best ensembles on stage and allowing the audience to enjoy very high quality performances.
"Fortunately, the EMJ is not just about the competition. Young people from all over the world are offered the chance to meet and to explore each other's culture. They can make music, sing and fraternise with each other, across frontiers and ideologies. These encounters are even more important than the high quality level of the competition", according to the jury.
Another commendable fact is that the festival is practically supported by the whole of the Neerpelt community. Numerous residents are helping voluntarily. Among them the management, which ensures everything goes well during the festival, as well as the hundreds of committed volunteers.
Flemish Minister for Culture, Joke Schauvliege: "Welcoming the world and at the same time giving Flanders international renown together with the entire local community is something the European Music Festival for Young People has been doing for decades. Thousands of young people enjoyed an unforgettable experience in Neerpelt, where they could demonstrate their own talent and appreciate that of others. All of this makes this Music Festival a well-deserved winner!"