The European Music Festival for Young People, this year, celebrates its 66th edition. And still, so far, the Festival only had 4 Presidents. One of them, in particular Jan Coninx, was granted the title of Honorary President of the EMJ. During a ceremony, current President Rutger Nuyts brought tribute to Jan Coninx, as, before him, Peter Berben and Lambert Vinken also received this title. They were handed an appropriate certificate as everlasting memento, but especially as a ‘thank you’ for their exceptional achievements and all that they have done for so many years and still do for the the EMJ.
Lambert Vinken, board member of the EMJ for 65 years now, was the first President. His successor Peter Berben has been a board member since 55 years and was President for 17 years. In 2002 Jan Coninx, Neerpelt- and Festival-connoisseur and a man with the administrative capacities, took over the Presidency, first in cooperation with Peter Berben and later with current President Rutger Nuyts. Jan was forced to step back in 2012 for reasons of health.
President Rutger Nuyts: “ In 2002 Jan turned out to be the perfect candidate for President. Ever since the 70s, he is connected with the Festival in various positions. In 1999 he joined as board member. During his 10 years of presidency he proved to be very ambitious. He managed to enthuse the board of members and brought together a whole new generation of volunteers. He founded an entirely new organizational structure in which several committees could prepare and realize their ideas. It was also Jan that managed to get European subsidies within reach of the EMJ.”
Honorary President Jan Coninx: “During the 50th edition of the EMJ in 2002 we noticed some new trends that gradually evolved into a new house style. Some new features, in the festivals to come, amongst others were a significant extension of the EMJ-website, TV shoots and -broadcasts in the EXQI studios in Lint and creating groups, such as domestic and foreign choirs, ensembles, composers and conductors that bear the title of ‘Festival ambassador’. Then there are other realizations like the partnership with the Festival in Kecskemét, “Europa Cantat” and an internet café for all participants.”
“The European Music Festival for Young People is now, and will always be, a unique and magical tinted event" concludes Honorary President Jan Coninx. "Most fascinating is that the rather small team of contributors prepare the Festival throughout a whole year into perfection.” As the date gets closer, the ' festival machine ' really gets going: the village is being decorated, Neerpelt’s workmen clean streets and squares and posters and flags are hung. Apotheosis, is when several thousands of children, arrive in Neerpelt with their songs and music. Year after year, they turn the EMJ into a big feast reigned by joy, friendship and brotherhood. For me the Festival days are the highlights of life.
President Rutger Nuyts (left) with from left to right honorary Presidents Jan Coninx, Peter Berben and Lambert Vinken.