The Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Awards support young musicians (Canadians and permanent residents) who are pursuing or about to embark on a professional career in classical music performance. The supported disciplines include voice, piano, guitar, and the complete range of orchestral instruments. Awards are intended for those in the earliest stages of their professional career, rather than those who are already established. They are intended to support programs of further study and related projects that prepare the applicant for a successful performing career.


Candidates must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents. They must be on the cusp of a professional career in classical music performance and they must be nominated, either by the leadership of the institution where they are studying (the Dean, Director, or their equivalent) or by an internationally recognized musician with whom they are studying independently.

Participation in the nomination process is by invitation only: students may not apply directly to the Foundation and professors who may wish to nominate them must channel their nominations through the leadership of the school in question.

The Nomination Process

Each year, the Foundation invites the Deans (or Directors, or their designates) of pre-eminent music schools in  Canada, the US, and Europe to nominate up to three of their top students from among the Canadians enrolled in their institutions for a Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award. Invitations include nomination forms, along with a detailed description of eligibility requirements, the Foundation’s adjudicative process, and other relevant information.

Because schools are limited in the number of students they may nominate, the Foundation requires individual teachers to channel their suggestions through the office of the Dean or Director (or designate) so that, in cases where there are more than three potential candidates, a decision can be made as to which names will be put forward on behalf of the school. Most schools canvas their faculty for suggestions and select those of their students they believe are the strongest candidates. The Foundation then communicates directly with the nominees, inviting them to fill out an application form with the details of their request.

Application Procedure

In their application, nominees are required to submit the details and budget of their proposed program and the names of two music professionals acquainted with their work, abilities and character. These references may be contacted directly by the Foundation.

For purposes of our pre-selection process, applicants must also submit digital or online recorded material of a maximum of 45 minutes’ duration, featuring their solo performance of three contrasting works. The recorded material should be relatively recent (recorded within the last 12 months), of the highest technical quality possible, and should clearly demonstrate the performer’s range and abilities.

Application Deadlines

The timetable for 2023 is:

Call for nominations:  December 2022/January 2023
Nominations due: 17 February 2023
Deadline for applications and supporting materials: 24 March 2023
Pre-selection: April/May 2023
Auditions: end of May 2023

Once nominations are received, candidates will be contacted and invited to submit an online application by 24 March 2023. Late applications will not be accepted.

Adjudication and Selection Criteria

Decisions are made on the basis of a pre-selection process and, for those successful in pre-selection, an audition before a jury of distinguished musicians. Pre-selection involves a review of the application materials submitted, including recordings of solo works performed by the applicant in the preceding 12-month period. Selected candidates are invited to a live audition in Ottawa in May or early June. The Foundation defrays the candidates’ cost of travel to the auditions.

Selection criteria
Awards are based on the merit of the candidates and their projects. The jury’s concern is to ensure it maintains the highest standards of excellence. Awards go to those applicants who demonstrate outstanding ability and accomplishment in a highly competitive process and whose projects are considered appropriate to their needs and professional goals.

In exceptional circumstances, the Foundation will consider renewing its support for up to a maximum of three years. Award recipients who wish to be considered for renewals will be judged on the basis of

  • their progress to date (all award recipients have a duty to report on the use of their grant)
  • a further application and audition.

Announcement of winners
Candidates will be notified of the result of their audition within eight weeks, usually by mid- to late June.

Value of Awards
Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Awards are for major projects of up to 12 months’ duration—they are not intended to cover small-scale or short-term projects.

The value of awards is not fixed, as the Foundation provides funds according to need. Applicants are requested to estimate all expenses and revenues for the period to be covered, including those not yet confirmed. The Foundation will provide monthly living costs of up to $2000, although a higher amount can be considered for international locations when this appears warranted and can be justified by the applicant.

Eligible expenses
In general, the Foundation considers education and training to be at the core of its mandate. Awards are intended to contribute towards the cost of undertaking studies of up to a year’s duration, such as a Master’s degree or Artist Diploma at a recognized institution, or a year of study combined with other professional development activities. Eligible expenses thus include items such as tuition fees and living expenses, project costs and travel (by the most economical means available). Career development costs, such as audition tours for singers, or participation in national and international competitions, will also be considered. The cost of creating promotional CDs or videotapes may be included as a minor feature of the request, but not as part of a commercial recording project.

The Foundation will not contribute to music commissions, commercial recording projects, group projects, performance tours, instrument purchase, or other capital costs, nor will it contribute toward projects already completed or fully funded from other sources.

Awards cannot be deferred to subsequent years.

Awards will be dispensed in installments. The first installment will be provided on confirmation of the program for which funds have been awarded and, where applicable, confirmation of acceptance by the school(s) and/or teacher(s) involved; subsequent installments will be released on submission of an artistic and financial report on the use of the award.