Faculty of Music Presents Top Honours

8 June 2020

The Faculty of Music is thrilled to announce cellist Andrew Ascenzo and composer and singer Kai Leung are the winners of the 2020 Tecumseh Sherman Rogers and William and Phyllis Waters Graduating Awards respectively.

The awards, both established in 2005, are the largest given by the Faculty of Music with a prize of $25,000 each. The competitive application process includes a student submission outlining future plans and how the award will assist with career development, and letters of recommendation from faculty members.

Andrew Ascenzo
Tecumseh Sherman Rogers Graduating Award

Cellist, conductor and producer Andrew Ascenzo is one of Toronto’s most promising and multi-faceted musicians. As a cellist, he performs regularly as a soloist and as a member of the Bedford Trio, currently the Irene R. Miller Piano Trio in Residence at the Faculty of Music and finalists of the Anton Rubinstein International Chamber Music Competition in 2018. As a conductor, Andrew has led orchestras and theatre productions throughout the GTA, and is also the Artistic Director of Music in the Atrium, a weekly concert series at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, now in its 23rd season. He is currently designing a new genre of concert with renowned music therapist SarahRose Black, combining live performance with narratives of the power of music in health and well-being.

“The question for me is “what can I do as a musician, as a performer, as an entrepreneur to contribute something new to the music community?” My goal is always “how can I expose more people to the power of music?” – not just musicians, not just people who already love classical music – but also for the people who have never heard classical music before, those who may not think they like it, those who have never been exposed to it, and those who are unable to access it.

One of my main projects post-degree is continuing to develop a new concert series with music therapist and recent Faculty of Music graduate SarahRose Black (PhD Music and Health 2020) about the power of music through performance and narrative. In the past year we have presented in collaboration with the Canadian Opera Company, the Toronto Public Libraries, and True Stories Told Live Toronto. Moving forward we will be adapting this series for online distribution due to COVID-19. Developing online content – which for a lot of us is quite new – has a huge learning curve: buying equipment, learning how to use it, and learning how to use the software to create content. And then there is the artistic side: “how am I going to make a product that is really enjoyable and that people want to engage with?” I’m taking the traditional, what we do live, and turning it into something that can be produced at home. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been an incredible explosion of creativity and online content through platforms like Zoom and other live streaming websites, but I am looking to take our project in a slightly different direction. I’m looking at creating pre-produced content that combines narratives of the power of music from a music and health perspective, discussions about music from a performer's perspective, and live performances.

The recognition of [the award] is wonderful and I feel very honoured to be recognized in this way, having been a student at the Faculty for such a long time, almost fifteen years. I look back at the list of people who have won this award and I am incredibly honoured to be named alongside those people who are doing amazing things in our community. It just feels so special.”

Andrew is a three-time graduate of the Faculty of Music, completing his Bachelor of Music in Performance (2009), Master of Music (2011) and Doctor of Musical Arts (2020). His research focused on repertoire for solo cello and electronics, and is currently in the process of being compiled into an online resource which can be found here: The Electronic Cellist.

Kai Leung
William and Phyllis Waters Graduating Award

Conductor, composer and singer Kai Leung is a name to watch in Toronto’s choral scene. He is the founding Artistic Director and Conductor of the Concreamus Chamber Choir, whose mission is to showcase new choral works by emerging composers. He also conducts Mississauga Summer Chorale’s concert choir ‘Frisson’ and is Apprentice Conductor with the Orpheus Choir of Toronto. As a composer his works have been performed by the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Resonance Youth Choir and the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, among others.

“It is really overwhelming to have won. The point of the award is that it is an enabler for a budding musician’s career, and I am so thankful that I have this now. An ability where I would not have had an ability before, financially. It will let me do all the programs that I want to do and kick-start some of the professional endeavors that I am working on, like my new music choir Concreamus. It will help us get off the ground a little bit – it feels awesome.

In the next two-three years I am going to be working in Toronto and continuing to develop my conducting, composing, and singing. After that I am looking to do a Masters in choral conducting. That has been the place where I have found most of my interest has been the past four years, and even before. This summer, I am working with the Mississauga Summer Chorale and we are going to try to produce an entirely virtual concert for August [due to COVID-19]. It will be a new take on being the choral director, having so much control on the audio production side instead of the rehearsal process – it will be interesting to see how it goes!”

We are pleased to announce that baritone Korin Thomas-Smith, soprano Maeve Palmer and jazz pianist and vocalist Hannah Barstow will also receive graduating awards valued $5,000 each.

“The two main awards – thanks to the exemplary stewardship and support of long-time friends of the Faculty, John Lawson and Bill Waters – go to graduating students who are deemed to have the greatest potential to make an important contribution to the field of music. Each year as we consider candidates for these prestigious awards, we are inspired by the quality and diversity of our applicants. This year our two recipients, DMA cellist Andrew Ascenzo of the Bedford Trio and BMus composer and vocalist Kai Leung, will join the company of some of our most distinguished alumni. We were also able to recognize with additional graduating awards three excellent candidates from our Opera and Jazz departments – singers Maeve Palmer and Korin Thomas-Smith, and MMus jazz piano-vocalist Hannah Barstow. These awardees and the overall applicant pool showcase the extraordinary success and scope of UofT Music. Inspiring stuff. Congratulations to our award winners and to all our 2019–2020 graduates. Represent us well.” – Don McLean, Dean and Professor, Faculty of Music

List of previous recipients:

Tecumseh Sherman Rogers Graduating Award 
2019 – Parisa Sabet (DMA Composition 2019, MMus 2014)
2018 – Joel Allison (MMus Opera 2018)
2017 – Younggun Kim (DMA Piano Performance 2017)
2016 – Emily D’Angelo (BMusPerf Voice 2016)
2015 – Charles Sy (MMus Opera 2015, BMusPerf Voice 2013)
2014 – Alexandra Smither (BMusPerf Voice 2014)
2013 – Andrew Haji (MMus Opera 2013, BMusPerf Voice 2011)
2012 – Riho Maimets (MMus Composition 2012)
2011 – Leslie Ann Bradley (MMus Voice Performance 2011, OpDip 2002, BMusPerf Voice 2000)
2010 – Lindsay Barrett (OpDip 2010) 2009 – Christopher Ku (MA Music 2009, BMus 2007)
2008 – Lucille Mok (BMus 2008) 2007 – Christopher Donnelly (MMus 2007 Jazz Piano, BMusPerf Jazz Piano 2005)
2006 – Ryan Jackson (BMusPerf Organ 2006)

William and Phyllis Waters Graduating Award
2019 – Bekah Simms (DMA Composition 2019, MMus 2015)
2018 – Elaine Choi (DMA Choral Conducting 2018, MMus Choral Conducting 2010, BMus 2008)
2017 – Matthew Emery (MMus Composition 2017)
2016 – Bianca Chambul (BMusPerf Bassoon 2016)
2015 – Michael Bridge (BMusPerf Accordion 2015)
2014 – David Zucchi (BMusPerf Saxophone 2014)
2013 – Matt Woroshyl (BMusPerf Jazz Saxophone 2013)
2012 – Coco Chen (BMusPerf Violin 2012)
2011 – Laura Silberberg (MMus Composition 2010, BMus 2008)
2010 – Alex Goodman (BMusPerf Jazz Guitar 2010)
2009 – Lauren Sweetman (MA Music Ethnomusicology 2009, BMus 2007)
2008 – Katarzyna Sadej (MMus Voice Performance 2008)
2007 – Stephen Hegedus (MMus Voice Performance 2007, BMusPerf Voice 2005)
2006 – Sarah Nematallah (BMusPerf Violin 2006)


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