Meet the 2020 winners of the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Awards!

When it became clear last March that Canada, along with the rest of the world, had been struck by a pandemic, the board of the Foundation met to discuss how or if we should proceed with this year’s competition. The board was unanimous in its decision to put the competition online, in spite of the less-than-ideal conditions that created both for jury members and candidates. It was felt that the support afforded annually by the Foundation to young Canadian musicians was simply too significant to suspend the program until life returned to normal. And so, forward we went, with a quickly redesigned process!

This year, in addition to moving online, we were able to call upon a remarkable group of musicians to sift through applications and the 45 minutes of music provided by each candidate. We wish to acknowledge these individuals for devoting days of their time to this task, as well as for the extraordinary care with which they considered each application. Our heartfelt thanks go out to Jeremy Bell, Donna Brown, James Campbell, Rosemarie Landry, Stéphane Lemelin, and Lydia Wong.

The jury anticipated that performing artists around the globe were likely to be severely affected by COVID-19 restrictions; they realized that many opportunities that would have been available in normal times would be significantly curtailed. Consequently, they took the decision to spread available funds a bit more widely than would ordinarily be the case, so that a greater number of highly deserving artists could benefit, even if the amounts awarded were somewhat less than usual.

Here are the 2020-21 award winners:

Eva Aronian, Violin—Calgary, Alberta

Born in 1995, Canadian-Armenian violinist Eva Aronian has received numerous accolades, including the 2018/19 Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award, and top prizes at the Minnesota Orchestra Young Artists Competition (2019) and at the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal Manulife Competition (2016). Praised as an artist “balancing emotional weight and technical virtuosity […] conveying the music’s power with a persuasiveness matched by few and surpassed by none” (Culture Spot LA), she has graced audiences with solo and chamber music performances across Canada, the United States, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, and Norway in such halls as Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Jordan Hall (Boston), Zipper Hall (LA), Maison Symphonique (Montreal), Teatro dal Verme (Milan), and the Kimmel Center (Philadelphia).

Ms. Aronian most recently served as teaching assistant to Donald Weilerstein at the New England Conservatory, where she received both undergraduate and Master’s degrees. She is continuing her studies as an Artist Diploma candidate studying with David Takeno at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England. Ms. Aronian performs on a c.1700 Giovanni Tononi violin on generous loan from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Tim Beattie, Classical Guitar—Barrie, Ontario

Born in Toronto in 1997, Tim Beattie is currently studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland under Allan Neave and Matthew McAllister. He graduated cum laude from the Conservatorium van Amsterdam in 2019, where he studied with Gabriel Bianco and Lex Eisenhardt. Drawn to the guitar at a very young age, Tim spent his formative years studying with maestro Robert Hamilton at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where he was the first guitarist ever invited to join the Phil and Eli Taylor Academy for Young Artists.

Named “Most Promising Youth” at the 2016 Arts and Culture Awards in Barrie, Tim has since been recipient of numerous awards including top prizes at the Antwerp International Guitar Competition, Brussels International Guitar Competition, Ex-Aequo International Competition, Hamilton International Guitar Competition, James  Stroud Guitar Competition, North East Scotland Guitar Society Award, Twents International Gitaar Competition, Uppsala International Guitar Competition, among many others.

Performance highlights include appearances at the Brussels International Guitar Festival, the Embassy of Canada in Belgium, Chamber Music Orillia, Cleveland International Castle (for the Duke of Buccleuch), Hamilton’s First Ontario Concert Hall (opening for KD Lang), Sauble Beach Guitar Festival, Ullapool Guitar Festival, Podium Wittemann (Dutch national TV), Concertzender (Dutch radio), and the online platform Young Classicals.

Aaron Chan, Violin—Richmond Hill, Ontario

Violinist Aaron Chan has established himself as one of the rising young artists of his generation. Aaron came to public attention when he won the Golden Violin Competition in 2019, which granted him a public recital at the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur. Aside from his performances as a soloist, Aaron has also performed as a chamber musician, participating in renowned competitions and festivals such as Verbier Festival Academy’s Soloists & Chamber Music program, the Fischoff competition, Aspen Music Festival & School, and ENCORE Chamber Music.

Aaron pursued his Bachelor of Music with Stephen Rose and Jinjoo Cho at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) and McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, where he also minored in Music History. He was the winner of the Concerto competition at CIM in the Fall of 2017, which gave him a public performance with the CIM orchestra at the Severance Hall. In 2018, Aaron won the classical concerto competition and chamber competition with his quartet (Lafontaine Quartet), which granted him public performances at the Pollack Hall and the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur respectively. 

As a violinist, he has played for numerous world-renowned musicians in masterclass settings, including Boris Kushnir, Augustin Hadelich, Mihaela Martin, Paul Kantor, Phillip Setzer, Roberto Díaz, and Guillaume Sutre. And as a chamber musician, he has worked with prominent chamber groups such as Artemis Quartet, Quatuor Ébène, Takács Quartet, the Alban Berg Quartet.

Anny Chen, Violin

Anny Chen is a Canadian-Taiwanese violinist currently studying at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris in the class of Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabedian. She previously studied at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg, with Prof. Tanja Becker-Bender and the Royal College of Music London, with Dr. Felix Andrievsky.

Anny’s competition successes include winning 1st prize and audience prize at the 2019 Leopold Bellan International Music Competition, earning prizes at the 2018 and 2019 Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben Instrument Competition, winning 1st prize at  the Elise Meyer Competition and 3rd prize at the Shu-Te Sylvia Lee Violin Competition. Anny is an alumna of the Perlman Music Program and has performed at prestigious venues such as Wigmore hall (London) and the Laeizhalle (Hamburg). As a soloist, Anny has played with the HfMT Symphony Orchestra and Cambridge Graduates’ Orchestra, among others. She plays on a 1730 Petrus Guarneri kindly on loan from the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben.

Bryan Cheng, Cello—Ottawa, Ontario

Winner of the inaugural Bader & Overton Canadian Cello Competition (2020) and Grand Prize at the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal Competition (2019), 22-year-old Bryan Cheng has already secured a distinctive place in the world of classical music. 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 debut with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen in 2018.

Highlights of recent and upcoming seasons include solo engagements with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Panamá, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim, Orchestra of the Americas, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, as well as the Kingston, Okanagan, Springfield, Adelphi, Niagara, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Lahti, and Schleswig-Holstein symphonies.

Bryan has collaborated with esteemed conductors Matthias Pintscher, Susanna Mälkki, Peter Oundjian, Joshua Weilerstein, and Jonathan Darlington. A former student of the late Yuli Turovsky and Hans Jørgen Jensen, Bryan is now in the studio of Jens Peter Maintz at the Universität der Künste Berlin. He plays the ca. 1696 Bonjour Stradivari cello and ca. 1830 Shaw Adam bow, generously on loan from the Canada Council Musical Instrument Bank as First Laureate of their 2018 Competition. This is Bryan’s third award from the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation which, in 2019, also selected him to receive its first Walter Prystawski Prize.

Isabelle David, piano—Montreal, Quebec

Credit: Catherine David

Isabelle David is the youngest family member in a line of pianists stretching back five generations. Praised for her “poetic and supple virtuosity” (Helsingin Sanomat), she has participated in numerous festivals in North America and Europe, including appearances at Jordan Hall in Boston, Zipper Hall in Los Angeles, New York’s famed Carnegie Hall and Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in Montreal.

Isabelle has collaborated with various ensembles, notably as soloist with the symphony orchestras of Montreal, Longueuil, Trois-Rivières, and Drummondville and as a chamber player with the Borromeo String Quartet and the Fine Arts Quartet. For the past ten years she has also been part of a duo with Canadian violinist Yolanda Bruno. The Bruno-David duo launched its first album, The Wild Swans, in 2019.

Isabelle is a doctoral student at Université de Montréal under the direction of Jean Saulnier. Her doctoral project, for which she received a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, involves the publication and interpretation of the piano repertoire of Quebec composer Auguste Descarries. Descarries was the piano teacher and mentor of the wonderful pianist, Louise Lussier, Isabelle’s maternal grandmother.

Jaeden Izik-Dzurko, Piano—Salmon Arm, British Columbia

Praised by conductors, composers, and audiences alike for his exceptional communicative power, thoughtful interpretations, and advocacy for Canadian compositions, Jaeden Izik-Dzurko is a Grand Prize winner of the FCMF National Competition, a winner of Juilliard’s prestigious Gina Bachauer Competition, Third Prize and Peter Takács Classical Sonata award winner at the Hilton Head International Piano Competition and the youngest Laureate of this year’s Cochran International Piano Competition.

Jaeden currently studies piano at The Juilliard School in New York City with Dr. Yoheved Kaplinsky; he previously studied with Dr. Corey Hamm and Ian Parker. Also instrumental in his development have been a number of excellent international summer music programs: Morningside Music Bridge, Art of the Piano, Musicfest Perugia, Domaine Forget, and The Aspen Music Festival and School.

Jaeden has organized and presented several solo recitals benefitting local community and international humanitarian projects. He has collaborated with local and international instrumentalists, vocalists, and chamber ensembles and performed with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, the Kamloops Symphony, and the Lions Gate Sinfonia. He has been featured on CBC Music, and broadcast live from Juilliard on WQXR.

Jessy Je Young Kim, Violin—Toronto, Ontario

Jessy Je Young Kim is an up and coming violinist from Toronto, ON with a versatile performance career that includes solo, chamber and orchestral concerts. She frequently plays with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. She has won numerous awards and scholarships around Canada, including the Hnatyshyn Foundation Developing Artist Grant and 2nd prize at the Shean Strings Competition in Edmonton.

Career highlights include performances with the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Northwest in Seattle, Vancouver Pilgrim Orchestra, the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Symphony and Guelph Symphony Orchestra. In 2014, she gave her debut performance in Koerner Hall in Toronto playing Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto under the baton of Johannes Debus. During her summers, she led the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra as their concertmaster. At the Yale School of Music, she won the Oneppo Chamber Music Prize and played in Carnegie Hall as part of the Yale in New York series with Ani Kavafian, William Purvis and Wei-Yi Yang. Jessy has completed her studies in University of Toronto, Yale School of Music and the Glenn Gould School studying with Ani Kavafian, Jonathan Crow, Barry Shiffman and Paul Kantor. Recently, she was named a fellow for the Rebanks Family Fellowship at the Royal Conservatory.

Alexander Malikov, Piano—Toronto, Ontario

A graduate of Oberlin College, where he studied with Angela Cheng and the Juilliard School, where he studied with Julian Martin, Alexander Malikov went on to receive an Artist Diploma under Sergei Babayan at the Cleveland Institute of Music and a Doctorate of Musical Arts with Anton Nel at the University of Texas.

Malikov has been featured as Artist-in-residence on Performance Today with the Minnesota Public Radio, and on both the modern piano and the fortepiano with members of the New World Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas. As a recitalist, he has appeared in many venues and festivals, including the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheater in Toronto, the Banff International String Quartet Festival, as “Montague Artist” at the Heidelberg University in Ohio, and at the “Rising Star” series at the Texas State International Piano Festival. Recent highlights include solo recitals in Toronto, the Rachmaninov-Paganini Rhapsody with the University of Texas Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Michelle Merrill and a world premiere of a new piano concerto by composer Minho Yoon. Also a composer, Alexander often performs his own solo piano works, and gave the world premiere of his own piano concerto in 2016.

Alexander Malikov received a gold medal at the Manhattan International Competition, and is a winner of numerous other piano competitions: the Knigge, the Shean, the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and Toronto Symphony Orchestra competitions, and the Carl Baldassare Composer-Performer competition. He is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma Program with James Anagnoson and sohn Perry at the Glenn Gould School in Toronto.

Ema Nikolovska, Mezzo-soprano—Toronto, Ontario

see Walter Prystawski Prize for details

Christian Paquette, Flute—Ottawa, Ontario

© Kate L Photography |

Canadian flutist Christian Paquette is the newly appointed Principal Flute of the York Symphony Orchestra and, with support from the Foundation, is currently in the Doctoral Program 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. Christian has frequently performed back in his hometown with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Thirteen Strings Ensemble. He was President of the Ottawa Flute Association from 2015 to 2017.

Christian has performed in the Music and Beyond Festival, in recitals at the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage, Concerto performances with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra (Nielsen), the University of Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (Ibert and Nielsen), and with the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra (Rodrigo). He is the recipient of numerous competition awards, including 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.

Elisabeth Pion, Piano—Montreal, Quebec

TIHMS & Van Velden Fotografie

A scholarship winner of Jeunesses Musicales Canada, the Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund, the Countess of Munster Musical Trust and the Kathleen Trust, pianist Élisabeth Pion is currently on full scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where she studies with Ronan O’Hora. She is the recipient of a prize “with great distinction” from the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, where she studied with Suzanne Goyette and André Laplante.

In addition to her Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award, Élisabeth has won First Prize at the Thousand Islands International Piano Competition, the Banque Nationale Prize of the Prix d’Europe competition (Quebec), and First Prize at the Shean Piano Competition.

She has participated in masterclasses with Stephen Hough, Nikolaï Lugansky, Richard Goode, Robert Levin and Christian Blackshaw. In 2018, Élisabeth was one of the CBC’s ”30 Hot Canadian Classical Musicians Under 30.” She was a 2020-2021 Imogen Cooper Music Trust artist and is looking forward to her Wigmore Hall debut in London on July 13, 2021.

Pheobe Robertson, Flute—Sackville, New Brunswick

Flutist Phoebe Robertson has recently performed in such venues as Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw and Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, earning commendations for her solo, chamber, and orchestral playing. In 2015, she was awarded the Grand Prize of the National Arts Centre Orchestra Bursary Competition and the Competition’s Special Award for Excerpts. She has since earned prizes throughout Canada and the United States, including the Harry G. Archer Award for Performance, the Silberman Chamber Music Award, and the title of Major Artist of the Pittsburgh Concert Society. Praised for her “superb” orchestral leadership by Le Devoir (Montreal), she has led the flute sections of the Orchestra of the Americas, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, and the European Union Youth Orchestra in tours throughout North America and Europe. Her appearances as a concerto soloist have included performances with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic. A keen advocate for new music, she premiered a recital of new works for solo flute by composers of the Tesselat Composers Collective in December 2019 and gave two premieres through the Bowdoin International Music Festival in July 2020.

Raised in Sackville, New Brunswick, Phoebe is a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts at the Manhattan School of Music, studying under Linda Chesis and Robert Langevin. She holds a Master of Music degree from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Music degree summa cum laude from the University of Ottawa, where she studied with Lorna McGhee and Camille Churchfield, respectively. She will be applying the funds from her Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award to travel costs associated with upcoming performance opportunities as well as the completion of her doctoral coursework.

Grace Sohn, Cello—Vancouver, British Columbia

Born in 1999, Grace Sohn is now based in Berlin, where she studies at the Hanns Eisler Hochschule für Musik, with Prof. Troels Svane. Her studies are supported with scholarships from the Sylva Gelber Foundation and the BC Council of Arts. As a rising next-generation artist, she was first prize winner of the Vienna Classical Strings Competition, the International Anton Rubinstein Competition in Berlin, and the International Busan Maru Competition in South Korea. She also won top prizes at the OSM Competition in Montreal and the Shean Strings Competition in Canada. In 2018, she was named one of “30 Hot Canadian Classical Musicians under 30.”

Grace has performed as soloist in Europe, Asian and America with Mozarteum Collegium Orchestra, Philharmonia Northwest, Busan Philharmonic, Zagreb Virtuoso and with the VAM Symphony Orchestra. She has participated in masterclasses with renowned artists, including David Geringas, Jens Peter Maintz, Rafael Wallfish, Denis Brott and Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt. As a scholarship holder at the Liechtenstein Musikakademie, she participated in their intensive masterclass program.

Grace currently plays a Nicolaus Gagliano II cello on loan from the Canadian Council for the Arts and a french bow made by Claude Thomassin.

Abby Walsh, Violin—Sherbrooke, Quebec

A young artist of note on the Montreal arts scene, violinist Abby Walsh is recognized for her great richness of sound and her innate artistic sense. A recipient of many awards throughout her musical journey to date, Abby completed her studies at the Conservatoire de musique with the highest distinction, in the class of Johanne Arel. With help from the Gelber Foundation, she is continuing her studies at Rice University (Texas) under Paul Kantor.

A participant in numerous workshops and masterclasses, Abby has had the opportunity to work with acclaimed musicians, such as Leonidas Kavakos, Ilya Kaler, Christian Tetzlaff, Mihaela Martin, Boris Kuschnir, Vadim Repin and Giora Schimdt, to name but a few.

Grand Lauréat of the Concours de musique Classique de Pierre-de-Saurel in 2018 and of the Festival-Concours de musique de Sherbrooke in 2015, Abby had her debut at Montreal’s Place des Arts in the spring of 2018 in the context of its Foundation’s concert series, “Grande première des futures étoiles;” She was a soloist with l’Orchestre symphonique du Conservatoire and I Musici, playing the Korngold concerto at Symphony Hall. She will give her first solo concert in Pro Musica’s Mélodînes series.

Abby plays a Joseph Guarneri “Filius Andrea” violin (1705) and uses a Eugène Sartory bow, both graciously on loan from Canimex.

Tony Yike Yang, Piano—Toronto, Ontario

Tony Yike Yang Is a young pianist of growing acclaim. At only 16 years of age, Yang garnered 5th Prize at the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition (2015) the youngest-ever laureate of the competition. More recently, he was awarded the Jury Discretionary Award at the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, where he was the youngest competitor. In previous years, Yang won top prizes at numerous international competitions, and won the silver medal at the 2014 Canadian National Chopin Competition in Toronto.

Yang has performed extensively in Canada and the United States and has made numerous appearances in Europe and Asia. In addition to his appearances at festivals and gala events, highlights include performances for Her Royal Highness Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Yang’s critically acclaimed debut album, Tony Yike Yang – Chopin: Sonata B-Moll / Ballada F-Moll / Mazurki, was released in August 2016 on the Fryderyk Chopin Institute’s Blue Series. The tracks are from Yang’s live performance in the second and third stages of the Chopin Competition in Warsaw (October 2015).

Yang has been featured on many television programs, including the “Inspiration Generation” series on Global TV, where he was selected as one of six outstanding Canadian young people. In 2016, he was named CBC Music’s Classical Young Artist.

He is currently pursuing a joint BA/MM at Harvard University, with a concentration in economics, and the New England Conservatory of Music where he is studying with Prof. Alexander Korsantia. In 2019, he served on the jury of the Hong Kong International Music Festival, and in 2020 on the jury of the Steinway Canada Young Artists Piano Competition (virtual edition).