Breakthrough Jazz Artist Award

Celebrating Toronto's outstanding breakthrough jazz artists


Deadline: Accepting nominations from September 4 - November 18, 2024 (for an award presentation in 2025)

About: The Toronto Arts Foundation Breakthrough Jazz Artist Award is a $10,000 cash prize with finalists receiving $2,000 each. The award celebrates an outstanding Toronto-based jazz artist with two to seven years of experience in the field, as well as artists who may have devoted their career to supporting other artists and are now able to focus on their own solo work.  Recognizing that “jazz” includes many different styles and artistic interpretations, this award is open to nominations for individuals who perform jazz and jazz-influenced music.

Previously the Emerging Jazz Artist Award, as of 2024 this award has been renamed to the Breakthrough Jazz Artist Award in recognition that many artists embark on a career in Jazz at various points in their life, not always defined by age.

The intention of this award is to further the career of a breakthrough jazz artist - the nomination rationale should demonstrate how receiving this award will accomplish that. Nominees will be asked to explain how this award will further their career at the time of nomination. Examples of how this award could support career advancement include, but are not limited to: professional development, projects, or marketing/promotion. Preference will be given to artists who are in the process of creating or promoting original repertoire, rather than standard material or established works in the jazz idiom.

The recipient and finalist awards are generously supported by Michael Bourgeois and Marilyn Legge. The award was established in 2014 and was supported for 10 years by Cheryl and Manuel Buchwald. The Breakthrough Jazz Artist Award is presented every year at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival.

“As a creative person you have a lot of dreams of things you would like to do, and finances often stop them. I often dream and dream big. An award like this makes those dreams possible.” – Larnell Lewis, 2017 Emerging Jazz Artist Award Recipient

Eligibility Criteria:

Nominees for the Breakthrough Jazz Artist Award:

  • must be an artist in the early stages of their professional career (two to seven years of experience) who has produced a small body of work and achieved some local recognition and/or has limited public exhibition experience. OR: Nominees who have more experience as an artist in the jazz idiom who have not had the opportunity to pursue their own individual/solo interests.
  • must have completed training (not necessarily at a formal educational institution) in their discipline.
  • must have contributed to arts and culture in Toronto and have demonstrated an ongoing association with Toronto.
  • may self-nominate. However, it is strongly recommended that the nominee is nominated by a nominator. Ideally the nominee and the nominator will work together to submit a nomination.
  • Undergraduate and College students pursuing degrees in music are not eligible.  If the nominee has already completed basic training in jazz, but is pursuing other academic interests, they are eligible.
  • are not eligible to nominate or receive Toronto Arts Foundation awards while serving as executive board member or staff of Toronto Arts Foundation or Toronto Arts Council

With the exception of the Newcomer Artist Award, no person may be selected for more than one Toronto Arts Foundation award within any given year and no person may receive the same Toronto Arts Foundation award twice. This does not preclude a recipient from being considered for a different Toronto Arts Foundation award in the future.

The award recipient must complete their proposed project within 2 years of the award date, and appropriately acknowledge the support of the Toronto Arts Foundation. The recipient will also be required to provide feedback on how the award and project has impacted their career.

Full Eligibility Guidelines for 2024 Award (PDF)

How to Apply: To nominate yourself (self-nominations are accepted for this award) or an individual for the Emerging Jazz Artist Award you must,

  • Visit the Toronto Arts Foundation Nomination portal
  • Register an account on the Toronto Arts Foundation Nomination portal or sign in to your existing account
  • Submit the nomination online, complete with supporting material

Along with the name of the individual you are nominating, the nomination form will also ask for a biography, a nomination rationale, and accompanying support material in the form of visual, audio or text-based attachments.

Nominators can save their application at any time before submission by clicking ‘Save Draft’. Nominators can log-in and out of the Toronto Arts Foundation Nomination portal asmany times as needed before clicking ‘Submit’.

* Please ensure you are on/ register through the Toronto Arts Foundation Nomination portal and not Toronto Arts Council’s TAC Grants Online.

Selection Procedure: An award panel of up to 10 assessors selected by the Award Manager will review nominations and  recommend a shortlist and a recipient for final approval by Toronto Arts Foundation’s Board of  Directors. Participants in each panel include practitioners of the arts, organizers, programmers,  producers, curators, critics, commentators and lay specialists. Panelists must have recognized  expertise, credibility, and experience along with a sense of history and perspective.

This award is presented in recognition of a body of creative accomplishment, rather than for specific works or achievements. In addition to specific requirements for each award, deliberations will be guided by the following assessment criteria: artistic strength and achievement; strength of the candidate’s artistic goals and objectives; contribution to the development of arts and culture in Toronto; and the candidate’s overall public impact including public engagement and animation.

Contact Info: For questions, please contact Jaclyn Rodrigues at jaclyn[at]torontoarts[dot]org.


Read full bios of all 2022 finalists

Andrew Marzotto – guitarist

Madeleine Ertel  – trumpeter, composer and arranger
Aline Homzy  – violinist, composer and community builder


Go to our Recipients page to view bios of past Emerging Jazz Artist Award recipients, dating back to 2014.

2022: Andrew Marzotto
2021: Joanna Majoko
2020: Jesse Ryan
2019: Mark Godfrey
2018: Rebecca Hennessy
2017: Larnell Lewis
2016: Amanda Tosoff
2015: Justin Gray
2014: Chelsea McBride