It all started on May 15, 1993, when Noorte Moosekantide Selts (Young Musicians Society) was established and the first one-day folk music festival called PÄRIMUSA took place on Viljandi song festival grounds. The first festival attracted 200 visitors.
In 1994, the festival was given a new name: Viljandi Folk Music Festival. The national newspaper Postimees described, "Three days that shook the world." The number of visitors rose to 5,000.
1995 - The festival had grown into a 4-day event.
In 1996, Ando Kiviberg, the head of Viljandi Folk Music Festival received the annual folk culture prize of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, the number of visitors reached 10, 000, and the culture prize of the town of Viljandi was presented to the festival.
In 1998, the head of the festival was elected Person of the Year of the City of Viljandi and awarded the Order of Viljandi. The organising team of the festival, Young Musicians Society received the annual prize of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.
In January 2000, the non-profit association Viljandi Folk Music Festival was established. It was founded by Viljandi Town Council, the Association of Local Authorities of Viljandi County, the Development Fund of Viljandi Culture Academy and seven people from the folk music department at the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy. Furthermore, the festival became a member of the European Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals (EFWMF).
In 2001, the director of Viljandi Folk Music Festival, Ando Kiviberg was awarded the 5th Class Order of the White Star.
The idea of the world music festival called MAAjaILM (WORLD and WIDE) was realised in 2002. The festival, which originally took place in Tartu and Tallinn, later only in Tartu, has become a tradition.
In 2003, the annual meeting of EFWMF took place in Tallinn and Viljandi with 30 members from 14 countries participating. Two new traditions were established: the annual autumn festival called Lõikuspidu (Harvest Feast) and the annual spring concert or spring concert tour. The organising team of the festival received the State Culture Award. Piret Aus, the programme director of the festival, was awarded the culture prize of the town of Viljandi. Furthermore, Viljandi Folk Music Festival earned the title of the Most Successful Tourism Object in Southern Estonia.
On December 27, 2004, the association was renamed Estonian Traditional Music Center (ETMC). The annual spring concert contributed to building a music house for Viljandi Culture Academy.
In 2005, the spring concert was held on Tallinn Day in Town Hall Square in order to raise money for releasing the DVD "Aja kõlad" ("Sounds of Time"). 74 school concerts took place and the ticket sales for the summer festival exceeded 20, 000 for the first time. The readers of Postimees chose ETMC to be the most successful promoter of culture of 2005.
During 2006 and 2007, 99 school concerts were organised, the festival WORLD'N'WIDE became a 2-day event, and in spring, a concert tour was organised to introduce new folk music to the public and to promote Anu Taul's second album of songs in a South Estonian dialect. Two full-time musicians started working at the center.
The fifteenth Folk Music Festival held in 2007 concentrated on runo songs, other ancient singing traditions and singers.
Starting from January 2008, seminars are held in several Estonian music schools to launch the state-approved folk music curriculum. On March 28, 2008, the new home for ETMC, Pärimusmuusika Ait (Estonian for ‘traditional music storehouse') was opened. The building also houses August Pulst School and the Traditional Music Center Library.