Announcing the 2021 Sylva Gelber Music Foundation award winners!

It is said that every cloud has a silver lining . . . For the second year in a row, the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation held its annual auditions virtually, rather than in person at the University of Ottawa. Despite the disadvantage occasioned by the global pandemic, the talent and brilliance of our candidates shone through the gloom of life under lockdown. With the invaluable assistance of our 2021 jury, we distributed 15 awards, dispensing over $200,000.

Our jury this year featured six renowned musicians who joined us from the US and Canada: clarinetist James Campbell, C.M. (Artistic Director, Festival of the Sound, former professor of music at Indiana University), percussionist Aiyun Huang, (Head of the Percussion Program, University of Toronto, Artistic Director of soundSCAPE), soprano Rosemarie Landry, C.M. (international coach and juror, Professor of Voice, Université de Montréal), pianist Stéphane Lemelin (Professor of Piano and Chair of the Department of Performance, Schulich School of Music, McGill University), violinist and violist Barry Shiffman (Associate Dean and Director of Chamber Music at the Glenn Gould School; Director of the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists at The Royal Conservatory of Music; and Artistic Director of Rockport Music in Massachusetts), and pianist/conductor William Eddins (Music Director Emeritus of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and international guest conductor).

These exceptional artists devoted days of their time to reviewing applications and listening to recorded music from some 50 candidates and then to conducting interviews with those who moved on to the final round of our competition. We are immensely grateful to them all for their devotion to the work of this Foundation and their concern to foster the next generation of young Canadian musicians poised to make their mark on the international stage.

This year’s list of award winners features a diverse array of talents from across Canada and a wide variety of instruments, including the human voice. They were chosen not merely for the quality of their performance and the merit of their projects, but for their commitment to contributing in tangible and meaningful ways to the advancement of the art form. These are artists who will build bridges to new audiences, embark on inspired collaborations, explore unfamiliar territory, and call upon a rich arsenal of artistic, technological, and human resources to reach new frontiers in musical expression.

Justin Almazan, Viola
Vancouver, British Columbia

Finalist of the Golden Violin Award and semi-finalist of Prix Orford, Justin Almazan is pursuing doctoral studies with André Roy and Victor Fournelle-Blain at McGill’s Schulich School of Music. Previously, Justin studied at the Colburn Conservatory and Cleveland Institute of Music with Arnold Steinhardt, Paul Coletti, Lynne Ramsey, Jeffrey Irvine, and Robert Vernon.

Justin has collaborated with Kim Kashkashian, Joseph Silverstein, Raphael Rosenfeld, James Buswell, Philip Setzer (the Emerson Quartet),

and with principal players of the Atlanta Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His ensemble, Persée Quartet, was admitted to the McGill International String Quartet Academy as a senior quartet and accepted into Premio Paolo Borciani and Trondheim International Chamber Music competitions. In 2017, Justin toured Italy as part of the Milton String Quartet’s Emilia-Romagna Tour and Germany with the Bach Weimar Academy Orchestra.

Justin has performed with the Seattle, Vancouver, and Montreal Symphony Orchestras and has performed for artists such as Pamela Frank, Peter Wiley, Maxim Rysanov, Barbara Westphal, Heidi Castleman, Lawrence Dutton, and Maté Szucs. Internationally, Justin has participated in the New York String Orchestra Seminar, Sarasota Music Festival, Thy Chamber Music Festival, Stavanger Kammermusik, the Heifetz Music Institute, Britten-Pears Young Artists Programme, and Casalmaggiore.

Justin plays on the “Ex-Tibor Varga” viola made by Johannes Theodorus Cuypers in 1786. The Sylva Gelber Music Foundation is pleased to be supporting his living and competition-related expenses in the coming year.

Sydney Baedke, Soprano
Medicine Hat, Alberta

Described as a “rising star to watch” by Opera Canada, soprano Sydney Baedke has made emerging artist debuts across Canada, the United States, and Europe. Recently featured as one of “30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30” by the CBC, she is a

two-time Regional Finalist at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Sydney spent the summer of 2021 as an Apprentice Singer at the Santa Fe Opera, where she covered Tatyana and made her offstage soloist debut in Eugene Onegin. Described as a “rising star to watch” by Opera Canada, soprano Sydney Baedke has made emerging artist debuts across Canada, the United States, and Europe. Recently featured as one of “30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30” by the CBC, she is a two-time Regional Finalist at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Sydney spent the summer of 2021 as an Apprentice Singer at the Santa Fe Opera, where she covered Tatyana and made her offstage soloist debut in Eugene Onegin. She made her professional debut as Fortuna/Valletto in Tim Albery’s critically acclaimed production of The Coronation of Poppea at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where she also covered Gilda in Rigoletto as a 2019 Gerdine Young Artist. Additional roles include Calisto (La Calisto), Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), and Johanna (Sweeney Todd).

Sydney has held fellowships with Manitoba Opera, the Aspen Music Festival, the Toronto Summer Music Festival, and the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy. She was a 2019/2020 member of the Rebanks Fellowship Program at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music, making concert debuts at Koerner Hall, the Canadian Opera Company, and the National Ballet of Canada.

In the wake of Covid-19, Sydney appeared in the title role in Brott Opera’s broadcast production of John Estacio’s iconic Canadian opera, Filumena. Sydney holds degrees in music from the University of Toronto and Rice University in Houston, Texas. She is immensely grateful for the support of the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation, which is assisting her to pursue lessons, coachings and career development activities in Berlin and elsewhere in 2021-22.

Aaron Chan, Violin
Richmond Hill, Ontario

Violinist Aaron Chan came to public attention when he won the Golden Violin Competition in 2019—he has since established himself as one of the most sought-after young artists of his generation. As a soloist and chamber musician, Aaron has frequently participated in competitions and festivals, such as Verbier Festival Academy’s Soloists and Chamber Music program, the Fischoff competition, the Aspen Music Festival and School, ENCORE Chamber Music, and others.

Aaron received his BMus with Stephen Rose and Jinjoo Cho at the Cleveland Institute of Music and McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, where he also minored in

Music History. Aaron is now pursuing his master’s degree with Paul Kantor at Rice University’s Shepherd School of MAaron received his BMus with Stephen Rose and Jinjoo Cho at the Cleveland Institute of Music and McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, where he also minored in Music History. Aaron is now pursuing his master’s degree with Paul Kantor at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Born in Canada, Aaron grew up in Hong Kong, where he has established himself both as a violinist and violist. Aaron has played for musicians in masterclasses, including Boris Kushnir, Augustin Hadelich, Mihaela Martin, Paul Kantor, Phillip Setzer, Roberto Díaz, and Guillaume Sutre. As a chamber musician, he has worked with prominent chamber music figures from the Artemis Quartet, Quatuor Ébène, Takács Quartet, the Alban Berg Quartet, and more. The Gelber Foundation is pleased to be supporting Aaron again in 2021-22, this time by contributing to his living and career development costs while he is at Rice University.

Conservatorium van Amsterdam. Performance highlights include: Dorabella (Così fan tutte), Sesto (La clemenza di Tito), Berio’s Sequenza III, and concerts at Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw, Het Concertgebouw, and Dutch National Opera.

Adanya Dunn, Mezzo-soprano
Toronto, Ontario

Canadian-Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Adanya Dunn (she/her) makes her American debut as Hermia in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Santa Fe Opera in the summer of 2021. Adanya is an alumna of the University of Toronto, Bard College Conservatory, and the Conservatorium van Amsterdam.

Performance highlights include: Dorabella (Così fan tutte), Sesto (La clemenza di Tito), Berio’s Sequenza III, and concerts at Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw, Het Concertgebouw, and Dutch National Opera.

Adanya has received a 2021 Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award to assist with the cost of lessons and career development expenses. In addition, she was the 2020 Hnatyshyn Foundation Developing Artist Grant winner, Michigan District Winner MONC 2020, and a three-time grant recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts.

In August 2020, Adanya founded Red Light Arts & Culture in Amsterdam, a not-for-profit foundation that connects local entrepreneurs, professional musicians and artists, and site-specific locations, promoting and adding to the rich cultural diversity of the Red Light District. For this project, she was a winner of the Music Academy of the West’s Alumni Enterprise Award and is currently collaborating with other interdisciplinary artists who are also part of the LGBTQAI+ community on bringing these stories and voices into classical music experiences in innovative ways. In April 2022, Adanya sings Mozart’s Requiem with the Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France in Paris and Aix-en-Provence, conducted by Barbara Hannigan. 

Maryse Legault, Historical clarinet
Montreal, Quebec

In June 2017, Maryse Legault received her Master’s degree at the Koninklijk Conservatorium Den Haag, specializing in historical clarinet performance in the studio of Eric Hoeprich. During her studies in the Netherlands, Maryse had the opportunity to perform with many ensembles, including

The Orchestra of the 18th Century, under the direction of John Butt, and musicAeterna, under the direction of Teodor Currentzis.

The first graduate from Quebec in the field of historical clarinets, Maryse is focusing her research on the virtuoso phenomenon at the turn of the 19th century. She has written the first comprehensive biography of the 18th-century international clarinetist Josef Beer (1744-1812) and is currently pursuing a PhD in musicology at McGill University. She presented her research as a guest lecturer at Oxford University, at the 2017 conference “Transforming 19th-century Performance Practice.”

Maryse is the recipient of an Early Music America Summer Scholarship and, between 2016 and 2021, benefitted from the support of Jeunesses Musicales Canada. She also received the Schulich School of Music Fellowship upon acceptance into the doctoral program and is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. She was awarded the Joseph-Armand Bombardier research fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The Gelber Foundation is pleased to be supporting Maryse’s multifaceted study of German clarinet virtuoso Heinrich Baermann.

Daniel Hass, Cello
Toronto, Ontario

Israeli-Canadian cellist Daniel Hass is First Prize winner of the 2016 Stulberg International String Competition, the winner of the Canada Council for the Arts 2016 Michael Measures Prize, the winner of The 2019 Juilliard Cello Concerto Competition, and now winner of a 2021 Sylva Gelber Music Foundation award. The Foundation is pleased to be supporting his competition and career development expenses in the coming year.

Daniel made his solo debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at age 15. He has since performed as a soloist with orchestras across the United States and Canada,

at world-class venues such as Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, Koerner Hall, Roy Thompson Hall, and the Bing Concert Hall. As recitalist and chamber musician, Daniel has performed in Amsterdam, Lisbon, Tel Aviv, Budapest, Montreal, and across the United States and Canada.

In addition to his love of performing, Daniel is also a prolific composer. His ballet piece Runner’s High for drums, cello, violin, and dance ensemble was premiered by the Revolve Dance Project in July of 2021, and his Piano Quartet No.1 will he performed and recorded this coming fall.

Daniel is an alumnus of the Perlman Music Program. He graduated from Juilliard in 2017 as a recipient of the Kovner Fellowship and continued his studies under Timothy Eddy and Joel Krosnick, graduating with a Master’s degree in 2021.

Cole Knutson, Collaborative Piano
North Battleford, Saskatchewan

Twenty-four-year-old Canadian pianist Cole Knutson studied piano with Jaya Hoy in Saskatchewan, Canada, and with the help of the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation is currently pursuing a Doctor of Music Degree at the Royal College of Music, London. He is a recent graduate from the Artist Masters Programme in Piano Accompaniment on full scholarship at The Guildhall School of Music & Drama, under the tutelage of Julius Drake and Eugene Asti. Cole also completed a bachelor’s degree in classical saxophone performance in Canada with Professor Allen Harrington.

Cole has appeared on the CBC, the BBC, at the National Arts Centre, and in recital throughout North America and Europe. He was the winner of the 2020 English Song Prize at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, winner of the 2020 Oxford Lieder Young Artist Platform, is an Oxford Lieder Young Artist and recipient of the HWE and WL Tovery Scholarship. In 2017, Cole was awarded Second Prize at the National Music Festival, organized by the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals, following his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of twenty. Cole is also a laureate of the 2017 and 2018 Franz Schubert Institut in Baden bei Wien, Austria. Recent and upcoming engagements include participating in Graham Johnson’s prestigious Song Guild, pre-concert recitals at the Barbican, performances at Milton Court Concert Hall, St. John’s Smith Square, LSO St. Luke’s, and the Oxford Lieder Fall festival with Harriet Burns, Katy Hamilton, and Helen Scales. 

Cole is grateful to Métis Nations Saskatchewan and the Gabriel Dumont Institute for their support.

William Leathers, Trumpet
Mississauga, Ontario

Born in Mississauga, and currently residing in New York City, twenty-year-old William Leathers is an award-winning trumpet player.

Noted for “the sparkling clarity” of his trumpet solos, Leathers has performed with several orchestras, including the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the combined orchestra of The Royal Academy and Juilliard, in which he played principal trumpet at Royal Albert Hall in 2019, and The Juilliard Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in 2020, where he played principal trumpet in Mahler’s 5th Symphony. He has also substituted in the American Brass Quintet.

William has performed across Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Caribbean, earning awards and accolades along the way. He is a Bach Brass artist, an inaugural recipient of the Fendi Vanguard Award, and now a 2021 Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award winner. The Foundation is helping him to pursue complementary studies in jazz. He is entering the last year of his undergraduate studies at Juilliard and was recently accepted into their accelerated BM/MM program. William is a proud recipient of a Kovner Fellowship at The Juilliard School.

Byungchan Lee, Violin
Coquitlam, British Columbia

Byungchan Lee garnered international attention as prizewinner of the inaugural 2009 Yuri Yankelevitch International Violin Competition and was one of CBC’s “30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30” in 2017. He appeared as soloist with the McGill and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras, performed at the closing ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and played alongside Stevie Wonder in Montreal. Engagements have led to performances in most major halls across Canada and in prominent venues around the world, including Alice Tully, Carnegie and David Geffen Halls, the Helsinki Music Center, and the Berwaldhallen in Stockholm. He has given premieres at MoMA’s

Summergarden, Juilliard’s Focus! Festival, and the New York Choreographic Institute. During his undergraduate studies at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, Byungchan won the coveted Golden Violin Award. Upon receiving his master’s degree from The Juilliard School he was awarded a Benzaquen Career Advancement Grant for artistic merit and leadership. He is an alumnus of the Rebanks Family Fellowship Program at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Byungchan plays on a 1869 Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume violin and bow on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank, and gratefully acknowledges the support of the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation, which this year is assisting him in preparing for major international violin competitions.

Jonathan Mak, Piano
Toronto, Ontario

Toronto-born pianist Jonathan Mak made his solo debut at age four with the Canadian Sinfonietta orchestra. An avid chamber musician, Jonathan has been invited to perform at various festivals, including the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, Ottawa Chamberfest, and the Edinburgh International Festival. Jonathan has attended various summer festivals, including the Aspen Summer Music Festival, Sarasota Music Festival, and Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival.

Jonathan recently graduated with his Master’s degree, and is currently pursuing his MMA at the Yale School of Music with Boris Slutsky. He received his BMus at the Cleveland Institute of Music

with Dr. Daniel Shapiro. In addition to the piano, Jonathan also received a viola minor degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music with Lisa Boyko, and a German minor from Case Western. Aside from music, Jonathan enjoys ice skating and is a coffee aficionado.

Jonathan is proud to be a recipient of the 2021 Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Awards, which is assisting with travel and living expenses in the year ahead as he completes his studies at Yale, continues with an Artist Diploma at the Glenn Gould School in Toronto, and takes part in various competitions.

Emma Meinrenken, Violin
Toronto, Ontario

Emma Meinrenken, 22, is a Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation Annual Fellow at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she currently studies with Ida Kavafian.

Emma has won many top awards and prizes, including 1st place at the Stradivarius International Violin Competition and the Silver Medal award at the Stulberg International String Competition. She was the 2019 winner of the Prix Ravel at the Écoles d’art américaines de Fontainebleau. She has been selected to participate in many summer music festivals, including the Gstaad Menuhin Festival and the Verbier Festival Academy in

Switzerland, and is often a featured performer at the Music Niagara Festival. Emma debuted with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the age of 10, and has since performed as a soloist with many other orchestras across North America. She has also collaborated with several composers, participating in the premieres of many new pieces for the violin, including the New York premiere of a work for violin and guitar by Fred Lerdahl at Carnegie Hall. Emma plays the 1689 Baumgartner Stradivarius violin, generously on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts. Her Sylva Gelber Music Foundation award is supporting her living and competition-related expenses in the year ahead.

Christian Paquette, Flute
Ottawa, Ontario

French-Canadian flutist Christian Paquette is the Principal Flute of the York Symphony Orchestra and newly appointed Principal Flute of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra.

He is a doctoral candidate at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University under the tutelage of Marina Piccinini.  He has also worked in flute repairs with Adam Workman, founder of Flutistry Boston.  He has frequently performed back in his hometown of Ottawa, Canada with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Thirteen Strings Ensemble.  He was also the President of the Ottawa Flute Association from 2015 to 2017.

​Christian has performed in the Shriver Hall Concert Series, Music and Beyond Festival, recitals at the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage, Concerto performances with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra (Nielsen) under the baton of Miguel Harth-Bedoya, the University of Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (Ibert and Nielsen), and with the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra (Rodrigo). He is greatly looking forward to his performance of the Reinecke Flute Concerto with the Farnborough Symphony Orchestra in England later in 2022. He is the recipient of numerous competition awards, such as the MPIMC (Marina Piccinini International Master Classes) Concerto Competition, first prize at the Yale Gordon Competition, Canadian Music Competition, the National Music Festival, the NACO Bursary Competition, and many others.  Past teachers include Paula Robison, Denis Bluteau, and Camille Churchfield.

​Christian is extremely grateful to the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation for their generous help in his doctoral studies at the Peabody Institute.

Élisabeth Pion, Piano
Ste Hyacinthe, Quebec

Curious and innovative, pianist Élisabeth Pion is an outstanding soloist, chamber musician and collaborator on the Canadian and international cultural scene. She is currently completing her Artist Diploma with Ronan O’Hora at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, where she has been on full scholarship since 2018. Before moving to London, she studied with Francine Lacroix, Suzanne Goyette et André Laplante.

Élisabeth is passionate about chamber music and is a founding member of the De Beauvoir Piano Trio. She is also interested in performing on the fortepiano and was recently invited to appear as a soloist with the Arion Baroque Orchestra. In addition, she serves as co-artistic director of Festival Unisson.

In 2018, Elisabeth was named one of the CBC’s “30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30.” She made her debut on BBC Radio 3 in 2019 and, in July 2021, had her debut recital at Wigmore Hall. 

Élisabeth is grateful for the support of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Jeunesses Musicales Canada, Help Musicians UK and Talent Unlimited UK, and the Carnwath Scholarship of the UK’s Worshipful Company of Musicians. She is also grateful to the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation for supporting her continued presence and activities in London while she completes her Artist Diploma.

Cameron Shahbazi, Counter-tenor
Hamilton, Ontario

Winner of the 2021
Walter Prystawski Prize

Read more . . .

Gabriel Trottier, Horn
Montreal, Quebec

Gabriel Trottier performs a wide range of repertoire, from the baroque period to the music of our time, on modern and historical horns. He also organizes concerts and develops interdisciplinary projects that incorporate other art forms. His work has been supported, among others, by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec and the Sylva-Gelber Music Foundation, which is contributing toward his participation in international competitions and creative initiatives. He has worked with ensembles such as the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (Montréal), Oslo Sinfonietta, the woodwind quintet Le Concert Impromptu (Paris) and many Quebec orchestras.

A graduate of the Norwegian Academy of Music (MMus in 2016) and the University of Montreal (DMus in 2021) Gabriel studied with Frøydis Ree Wekre, Julius Pranevicius, Saar Berger and Louis-Philippe Marsolais. Specializing in contemporary music performance, he was a fellow at the International Ensemble Modern Academy in Germany (MMus in 2018) and he is an alumnus of the Lucerne Festival Academy. His interests also include teaching, improvisation, and live electronics.

2019 Award Winners Announced!

The Sylva Gelber Music Foundation held its twelfth annual competition in 2019. As in previous years, we discovered an extraordinary array of Canadian talent in classical music performance displayed by those young musicians who passed to the live audition phase of our awards process. We were extremely grateful for the assistance of our stellar jury, this year made up of Lawrence Ewashko from the University of Ottawa and the Ewashko Singers; David Gillham from UBC, a member of the Archytas Ensemble and the Ridge Piano Trio; Stéphane Lemelin, Chair of the Department of Performance and Professor of Piano at the Schulich School of Music in Montreal; and Nora Shulman, former Principal Flute with the Toronto Symphony and teacher at the University of Toronto and the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Over three action-packed days at the University of Ottawa’s School of Music, which generously provides the Foundation with rehearsal and performance space, we had an opportunity to hear young musicians from every region of the country. Several are engaged in advanced studies at prestigious music schools in Canada, the US, England and Europe, or are working with master teachers, performers and conductors. Some were simply in need of assistance to continue regular lessons or support themselves in extremely expensive European capitals while they make the transition to a full-time professional career. Many award winners are combining their studies with participation in prestigious international competitions; our best wishes go out to them as they prepare to measure themselves against top young artists from around the world!

From among a group of highly talented candidates, the jury recommended awards to 10 young artists, in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $30,000, for a total disbursement this year of approximately $165,000. The Board of Directors of the Foundation is delighted to announce the following winners of the 2018 Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Awards:

Kevin Ahfat, pianist, Toronto

As a pianist that “leaves no question about his riveting presentation and technical finesse” (Seattle Times), Canadian pianist Kevin Ahfat is “poised to become one of the young heirs of the classical piano realm, with a bold, boundary-pushing, millennial style matched by refined execution” (Vanguard Seattle), “summoning plenty of thunderpower in the big moments, but clearly valuing musicianship over mere showmanship” (American Record Guide).

In 2018, Kevin was named one of CBC’s 30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30; he subsequently released a live recording of Brahms from CBC’s Studio 211. That same year, Kevin was thrilled to perform the North American premiere of the recently published Third Sonata for Cello & Piano, by Camille Saint-Saëns. In anticipation, he filmed and produced a minidocumentary entitled Soirée pour Camille, a short film documenting the historical context of the work, his artistic partnership with cellist Juliette Herlin, and their exploration of French music. Continuing his dynamic exploration of music and film, he recently partnered with Riddle Films to release a cinematic performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, filmed live at Toronto’s Koerner Hall.

Highlights of recent seasons include returns to the Seattle Symphony for its first ever Shostakovich Concerto Festival and to the Dame Myra Hess Series in Chicago, and the inaugural masterclass and recital for the Las Vegas Masterclass Series. Ahfat has had the privilege of sharing the stage with renowned artists across many genres, including Jean-Yves Thibaudet, So Percussion, David Finckel, Joshua Roman, and Joaquin Valdepeñas. He enjoyed a new partnership with choreographer Richard Alston and Juilliard Dance in their recreation of Alston’s Sheer Bravado (2006). He has also appeared with the ARC Ensemble, Amici Chamber Ensemble, and Art of Time Ensemble throughout North America.

Kevin Ahfat completed principal studies at the Juilliard School in New York under Joseph Kalichstein and Stephen Hough and spent the past year as a Rebanks Fellow at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto. In the coming year, he will use his Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award to pursue studies with various eminent teachers, prepare for important international competitions, and deepen his skills in film and other visual media as a pathway to enhancing enjoyment and understanding of classical music.

Joel Allison, bass-baritone, Toronto

Canadian Bass-Baritone Joel Allison has been praised for his “beautiful, rich, ringing tone.” (Ludwig von Toronto) He has performed in Canada and Europe with the Canadian Opera Company, Saskatoon Opera, Saskatoon Symphony, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, the Tilford Bach Festival, and the Newfoundland Symphony.

In the 2019-20 season, Joel is performing the roles of The Mandarin in Turandot and Fiorello in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with the Canadian Opera Company in the Studio Ensemble; he is also giving his debut performance with Symphony Nova Scotia. Last season he debuted with the COC in their Studio Ensemble in the roles of Zaretsky in Eugene Onegin, Superior Senator in the world premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian, and Schaunard in La Bohème. He also appeared for the first time with the Newfoundland Symphony in the Messiah.

Performance from the University of Toronto. He was the recipient of the 2016/17 Richard Bradshaw Fellowship in Opera, the Norcop Prize in Art Song, and the 2018 Tecumseh Sherman Rogers Graduating Award at the University of Toronto. Joel is an alumnus of the Ontario Youth Choir, Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, and the Toronto Summer Music Festival Art Song Fellowship.

In competitions Joel has won Second Prize at the Christina and Louis Quillico Awards, Second Prize at The Great Lakes regional finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Second Prize at the COC Centre Stage Competition, and Second Prize at the Brian Law Opera Competition. His Gelber Award has enabled him to participate in the Salzburg Festival Young Singers Project the past summer and will facilitate networking and auditions in Europe, as well as regular lessons back in Toronto.

Joel holds a BMus. in vocal performance from the University of Ottawa and a Master’s in Opera

Suren Barry, pianist, Montreal

Suren Barry is well known to audiences across Canada, and his concertizing has brought him overseas as well. He has given numerous solo recitals at La Chapelle Historique du Bon Pasteur in Montreal and has also been invited to perform at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, at the “Im Hayastan” Festival in Yerevan, Armenia, and at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival.

An avid chamber musician, Suren regularly performs in various ensembles at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival and at the Festival Pontiac Enchanté. Recently, Suren has been performing with the McGill Percussion Ensemble, whose schedule included a concert at the McCormick Marimba Festival (Tampa, FL).

Suren holds a BMus degree from Carleton University and a Master’s in Piano Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music; he is currently pursuing his doctorate at the Schulich School of Music in Montreal. He recently received a prestigious Doctoral Fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for his research on keyboard improvisation in the 18th century. This project focuses on helping pianists reclaim the rich tradition of improvised classical music. His 2019 Gelber Award will enable him to continue with lessons in Montreal, participate in competitions, and pursue his interest in classical music improvisation through his own performance and in collaboration with esteemed improvisers in the UK and the USA.

Arian Brisson, flûtiste, Montréal

Photo: Annie Éthier

Grand prize winner of the Orchestre symphonique de Trois Rivières’ 28th competition and of the 2013 Prix d’Europe, Ariane Brisson has distinguished herself in multiple forums: at the 6th edition of the International Flute Competition in Krakov, at her final public examination at the Montreal Conservatory of Music (Great Distinction), and at the University of Montreal, where she earned her Master’s degree (Mention exceptionnelle).

Ariane studied under Mathieu Dufour at DePaul University in Chicago in 2013-14. More recently, her personal reflexions on musical interpretation prompted her to undertake doctoral studies at the University of Montreal.

An accomplished soloist, Ariane is also called upon to perform concertos and other masterworks of the flute repertoire with Les Violons du Roy, the orchestra of the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal and the Orchestre symphonique de Trois-Rivières. A passionate chamber musician, Ariana founded the duo Palladium with pianist Olivier Hébert-Bouchard in 2015; the duo was selected by Jeunesses musicales du Canada to perform in the context of their “Concerts Relève” series in 2017-18.

Drawn by the fluidity and sensitivity of her playing and the richness of her tone, the musicians of Pentaèdre invited Ariana to join their ensemble in 2016.

This year’s Gelber Foundation Award is Ariana’s second. It will enable her to undertake periods of study in Europe with her mentors, flutists Mathieu Dufour and Philippe Bernold.

Brian Cheng, cellist, Ottawa

© Harald Hoffmann

Laureate of the VI International Paulo Cello Competition, 21-year-old Bryan Cheng is acclaimed worldwide for his “absolutely astonishing” (La Presse, Montréal) command of the cello, “dreamy beauty” (Süddeutsche Zeitung), and “abundant facility, innate musicality, and sense of joy” (New York Concert Review). He made his solo debut at age 10 with the Orchestre de chambre I Musici de Montréal, his Carnegie Hall recital debut at 14, and his Elbphilharmonie solo debut in 2018 with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and conductor Joshua Weilerstein.

Solo highlights of recent and upcoming seasons include appearances with Finland’s Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Lahti Symphony Orchestra, and Tapiola Sinfonietta; Germany’s Schleswig-Holsteinisches Sinfonieorchester and Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim; New York’s Adelphi Orchestra; Missouri’s Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, Niagara and Okanagan Symphony Orchestras, and Symphony Nova Scotia, under the baton of such esteemed conductors as Susanna Mälkki, Peter Oundjian, David Geringas, and Jonathan Darlington.

As cellist of the ChengÇ Duo, Bryan has released a trilogy of critically acclaimed albums on the German label audite: Russian Legends (2019), Violonchelo del fuego (2018), and Violoncelle français (2016). He currently studies at the Universität der Künste Berlin with Jens Peter Maintz, and plays on the ca. 1696 Bonjour Stradivari cello with the ca. 1830 Shaw Adam bow, generously on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank, as First Laureate of their 2018 Competition. Bryan will use his second Gelber Foundation Award to continue a customized program of intensive study, including mentorship from master cellists and conductors; he will also participate in numerous prestigious international competitions, and develop new repertoire for performance.

Kady Evanyshyn

Born in Winnipeg, Kady Evanyshyn joined the International Opera Studio at the Hamburg Staatsoper in September 2019. A competitor in this year’s Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera International Song Competition, Ms. Evanyshyn is positioning herself at the crossroads of classical opera and contemporary vocal music. She recently premiered Stefano Gervasoni’s Drei Grabschriften for mezzo-soprano and piano and performed Berio’s Folk Songs with Jeffrey Milarsky in Alice Tully Hall. Upcoming performances include Claire in Cold Mountain (West Coast premiere), Glascha in Katja Kabanova (German debut), and J.S. Bach’s cantata Ich habe genug, conducted by Simone Dinnerstein. Ms. Evanyshyn has received awards from the Gerda Lissner Lieder/Song Competition and the Winnipeg Music Festival.

Past roles include Second Woman in Dido and Aeneas (New York, London, Versailles), Frau Reich in Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor (Juilliard), and Annio in La clemenza di Tito (Aspen). Kady is an alumnus of the Aspen Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, and Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artist Vocal Academy. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at The Juilliard School, studying with Edith Wiens. She is supported by the Novick Career Advancement Grant in addition to her Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award, which she will use to assist with travel, vocal lessons and German language training, and other costs that help to build her musical career during her stay in Germany.

Maïthéna Girault

Maïthéna is a first-prize winner of the Canadian Music Competition and winner of the 2017 Golden Violin Award, Canada’s largest collegiate music prize. She was the winner in the strings category and of the Québécor Prize at the 2019 Prix d’Europe competition. In 2015, she made her debut in Carnegie Hall as a soloist and chamber musician. A passionate chamber musician,

Maïthéna was a founding member of the Milton String Quartet, Grand Prize winner at the 2017 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.

Maïthéna entered the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal at age eight, where she studied with Helmut Lipsky for ten years. She went on to graduate with a Licentiate in Music and a Graduate Diploma of Performance from McGill University, where her primary teachers included Andrew Wan, Alexander Read and Axel Strauss. Maïthéna performs on the 1858 Ex. ”Comte Koucheliov” violin by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume with a bow by François Lotte, both generously loaned to her by Canimex. This is her second Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award; she plans to use it to continue her studies at the Manhattan School of Music with Lucie Robert and to pursue her involvement in chamber music.

Xiaoyu Liu

Now 22, pianist Xiaoyu Liu was born in Paris and raised in Montreal. One of the most dynamic and technically gifted pianists of his generation, he is heralded for musical interpretations that are “powerful, polished and emanate from a disciplined spirit” (The Telegram).

His playing has taken him around the world, and he has given recitals in Canada, China, the USA, Japan, France, Italy, Ukraine, Salvador, Poland, Israel, and Switzerland. As a soloist, he has performed with major orchestras such as the Cleveland Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Montréal Symphony Orchestra, Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Israel Camerata Jerusalem, Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra, YOA Orchestra of the Americas, among others.

In 2014, he took part in a North-America tour with the China NCPA Orchestra, performing Ravel’s G major Concerto, and also appeared with them at the China National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. (National Post) described his interpretation “a subtle range of French colour and feeling ”. In 2018, he will be touring with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine in China (Beijing Concert Hall, Shanghai Oriental Art Center, Changsha, and Fuzhou).

Winner of the Prix d’Europe and the Grand Prize at the OSM Competition, Xiaoyu has also won prizes and recognition in various prestigious international competitions, including the Sendai International Piano Competition, the Montreal International Music Competition, the Visue, the Grand Prix Animato in Paris, the Interlaken Classics in Bern, and the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel-Aviv. He has made numerous studio recordings with ICI Radio-Canada featuring works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel, and Satie. This is his second consecutive Gelber Foundation Award; it will assist him in pursuing his studies in Montreal and facilitate his participation in various international competitions.

Xiaoyu received the Prize with Great Distinction from the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal under Richard Raymond and he is continuing his studies with renowned pianist Dang Thai Son at the University of Montreal.

Josh Lovell

Canadian Tenor Josh Lovell is in his first season in the ensemble of the Wiener Staatsoper, performing Lysander in a new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lurcanio in Ariodante, Don Ramiro in La Cenerentolaand finally, Ernesto in Don Pasquale. Other engagements include Don Ramiro with The New Generation Festival in Florence, Gonsalve in L’Heure Espagnol with Wolf Trap Opera, Poisson in Adriana Lecouvreur as part of the Salzburger Festspiele’s Young Singer’s Project, Mozart’s Requiem with the Vancouver Symphony, and Handel’s Messiah with the Victoria Symphony.

Josh was a member of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, and participated in San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program.

Josh is the 2018 Grand Prize and Opera Prize winner of the 52nd Annual International Vocal Competition ‘s-Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands, the 2nd place winner of the 2018 Dallas Opera Competition, and the 3rd place winner of the Marcello Giordani Foundation competition; in 2017 he was a semi-finalist with the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. From Victoria, British Columbia, he was a student of Benjamin Butterfield at the University of Victoria and graduated from the University of Michigan, where he studied with Stanford Olsen. He currently studies with Julia Faulkner.

Ema Nikolovska

Photo: Kaupo Kikkas

Born in Macedonia and raised in Toronto, Ema earned a coveted place in the Opera Course at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she previously completed a Masters. Her principal teachers include Rudolf Piernay, Susan McCulloch and Helga Tucker. She has an undergraduate degree in violin from The Glenn Gould School, where she studied with Paul Kantor and Barry Shiffman.

Ema is a BBC New Generation Artist and a Young Classical Artist Trust (YCAT) Artist. Her prizes and awards include the Ferrier Loveday Song Prize, the Oxford Lieder Young Artist Platform award, the Guildhall Wigmore Prize, the Gerald Moore Award Singers’ Prize, the Susan Longfield Prize, the First and Audience Prizes at the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards, and Second Prize at the International Helmut Deutsch Lied Competition.

Ema has been part of the Art of Song Program in Toronto, the Britten-Pears Programme, the Music Academy of Villecroze, Les Azuriales, the Franz-Schubert-Institut, Thomas Hampson’s Lied Akademie, and the Verbier Festival’s Atelier Lyrique.

Recent highlights include a debut recital at Wigmore Hall, the Guildhall Gold Medal Final, and a Schubert Lieder recital with Malcolm Martineau at the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin. Upcoming engagements include the Creative Dialogue XI Symposium with Kaija Saariaho, a recital with Joseph Middleton in Glenarm, the role of Celia in Haydn’s La fedeltà premiata and Sister Edgar in The Angel Esmeralda, and a premiere by Lliam Paterson (both Guildhall productions).

Ema is grateful to the Shipley Rudge Scholarship, London Syndicate and The Countess of Munster Musical Trust for their support. She will be applying her Gelber Award to the costs associated with living and studying in London.