A distinguishing characteristic of this festival is that it aims to be positive and non-competitive, while still providing recognition to outstanding performances. The adjudicators for each section have the task of not only providing constructive feedback, but awarding every ensemble with either a gold, silver or bronze rating based purely on whether they feel a performance has been especially refined, moving, inspirational or otherwise significant. There is no ranking or placing within those categories, and each section will have a completely different combination of gold, silver and bronze awards, depending on the adjudicators’ impressions.
In recent years, a number of changes have been instituted with regard to how the Festival views awards. In 1998 the new awards system of Gold, Silver and Bronze plaques was introduced to replace the original First, Second and Third competition certificates. In all sections adjudicators have been asked to provide feedback to each ensemble using criteria that takes into account many factors including the age and experience of the performers, the difficulty of the music and the quality of the performance. This created a system that allowed more than one ensemble in a section to receive a Gold, Silver or Bronze award or indeed it is possible that the adjudicators may not award a Gold, Silver or Bronze award if the criteria for the section are not met.
This awards section has meant a lot more ensembles going back to their schools after the weekend with tangible recognition for their efforts. Many school walls throughout Queensland are now adorned proudly with Gold, Silver and Bronze awards received at the Festival. The awards also reduce the competitive feeling associated with the Festival. Student ensembles are really competing by themselves against a set of criteria not against other school ensembles in the particular section.
the two perpetual trophies for the most outstanding primary and secondary school at the Festival were discontinued in keeping with the move to de-emphasize the competitive nature of the Festival. Previously these trophies were awarded to the schools that had achieved the most points for the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards their ensembles took away from the Festival.
there was another change, again to de-emphasize competition in the festival and to take a positive and supportive approach to rewarding excellence in performance. The Gold, Silver and Bronze system will still be in place, but every ensemble that successfully participates in any section will receive an award, and will therefore have student representatives on stage during the adjudication for that section. Whilst this may seem to slightly de-value awards from years past, it will serve the purpose of rewarding everyone, and it will allow for the definitions between a Gold, Silver and Bronze performance to be more transparent.
an Encouragement Award was introduced for the very rare occurrence of an ensemble not successfully finishing their performance, hence not meeting the criteria of a bronze award.
an Award of Excellence was introduced to allow adjudicators the opportunity to recognize an outstanding performance by an individual musician.