In partnership with the Pat and Tony Adams Freedom Fund for the Arts, JAZZ.FM91 is proud to introduce Discover Women in Jazz.

This brand new program is designed to promote, champion and inspire women’s and people of marginalized genders’ contributions to jazz as instrumentalists, writers, vocalists and bandleaders. The program features five women or non-binary jazz musicians from the Greater Toronto Area selected by a distinguished panel that includes Colleen Allen, Josh Grossman, Céline Peterson, Dione Taylor and Huma Uster. Through this program, JAZZ.FM91 will offer these talented musicians support, space, funding, audience and marketing to foster their music careers.

Meet the artists

The following are the five exceptional artists selected for the program.

Mingjia Chen

Beijing-birthed, Toronto-dwelling vocalist-composer Mingjia (MING-jee-ya) writes music that’s equal parts fantastical and relatable, performing with courage and honesty. Aside from making mischief with her chamber ensemble Tortoise Orchestra, she has performed with and written music for Grammy Award-winning artists Roomful of Teeth, Andrew Yee, Matt Mitchell, James Fernando, Uoou, The Science of What?, David Occhipinti, Juliet Palmer, Christine Duncan, GREX, Pleasure Craft, Pomes, Pusher, Emily Steinwall, Anna and more. She has performed at various venues and festivals across Canada, China and the U.S. and has produced five releases as a bandleader. Her Feel Seen EP is described by The Wholenote as “beautiful, mature and exceptionally coherent.” She enjoys drawing, dancing and watching the Nickelodeon smash hit series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Since the pandemic began, Mingjia has been taking lots of socially distanced walks and is  learning to play the guitar.

Photo credit: Meg Moon

Reknee Harrett

Reknee Harrett is an award-winning Toronto-based bassist, composer, educator and community builder. Combining their passion for free improvisation, folk music and the jazz tradition, Reknee strives to delve deep into eclectic, genre-defying music. Reknee was selected to participate in the TD Jazz Youth Summit (Ottawa Jazz Festival), School for Improvised Music (Brooklyn, N.Y.), the inaugural TD Toronto Jazz Festival Jazz Musician Intensive Ensemble, and Coalition Canada’s Music Monday Anthem. Reknee doubles as an in-demand musician, a student in the master of music: applied music and health program at the University of Toronto, and an Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy student affiliate.

Photo credit: Dennis Miles

Joy Lapps-Lewis

Joy Lapps is an artist, educator, creative consultant and creative womanist. She holds a master’s degree in music composition from York University and her proficiency with the tenor pan is known internationally. She leads the Joy Lapps Project, an ensemble exploring Afro and Latin-Caribbean jazz. Joy has performed at festivals including Afrofest, Toronto’s TD Jazz Festival, Antigua’s Moods of Pan Festival and Miami’s GroundUp Festival. Lapps-Lewis has educated hundreds through her masterclasses and workshops within educational, corporate and community spaces. In 2019, Joy presented her multi-disciplinary project titled From Skin 2 Steel and Beyond at the Toronto Evergreen Brick Works. Joy is currently putting the finishing touches on her forthcoming 2021 release Girl in the Yard and is in the development phase of multi-disciplinary performance celebrating the contributions of women to the steelpan community.

Photo credit: Larnell Lewis

Yunjin Claire Lee

Yunjin Claire Lee is a Korean-Canadian pianist, keyboardist, sound designer, composer and producer, a sought-after collaborator for creating electrifying soundscapes. She has worked on local and international projects in an extensive range of genres including traditional and avant-garde jazz, contemporary classical, musique concrète, ambient techno, synthwave and pop. After graduating from Humber College, Yunjin continued her studies in contemporary classical music. Simultaneously, she began consulting for and collaborating with synthesizer manufacturer Rabid Elephant on the design of new musical instruments. The combination inspired her to pursue genre-merging experimental music using improvisation as a platform. Her debut album Voluntary Response (2020), a solo piano improvisation recording weaved with electronic processing via Rabid Elephant’s prototype synth, gained her an international fanbase in the experimental music scene. Her latest single Underwater Arcade, an ambient techno track, has been featured on radio stations across the country such as CJSW 90.9FM, CKUT 90.3FM, CITR 101.9FM and CIUT 89.5FM. A recipient of 2020’s Explore and Create grant from the Canada Arts Council, Yunjin studied with Jason Lindner and Matt Mitchell, world-renowned musicians from New York. Yunjin is currently recording and producing a new synth-pop project TV DREAMS with Yoni Newman and Chris Sonier, debuting their EP in September, 2021. She is also preparing to release a sequel track to Underwater Arcade in July, 2021.

Photo credit: Brendan Mariani

Erez Zobary

Toronto-based R&B/pop artist Erez Zobary has a timeless voice in more ways than one. Raised on Stevie Wonder and Amy Winehouse, Erez’s soulful vocals echo the sounds and styles of her youth. Lyrically she is raw and uninhibited, writing openly about universal yet highly personal feelings of self-worth, uncertainty and vulnerability. Combined with her down-to-earth sense of humour and natural charisma, which she displays online and on stage, Erez engages with a growing fan base who resonate deeply with her message of empowerment and find joy and connectivity in the community she has fostered. Now, Erez turns inward, at a time of great self-discovery and uncertainty, to create a collection of deeply personal songs. On her upcoming project, Erez draws from the anxieties, challenges, and changes facing her, and many like her, who are searching to understand themselves.

Photo credit: Teaunna Gray

Meet the panelists

The following are the five panelists for Discover Women in Jazz:

Colleen Allen

Colleen Allen is one of Canada’s most in-demand musicians for live concerts and recording sessions. Based in Toronto, the acclaimed and versatile multi-instrumentalist has performed all over Canada, the U.S. and Europe with world-class jazz and pop artists including Molly Johnson, David Clayton-Thomas, Holly Cole, Emilie-Claire Barlow, Rik Emmett, Marc Jordan, Andrew Craig and Jackie Richardson. Known for her warm, authentic tone and soulful style of soloing, she works frequently with Brian Barlow’s Big Band, Cirque du Soleil, is a resident artist at Soulpepper Theatre, and is a member of Manteca, Canada’s premier fusion jazz big band. She has been in the house band of the Toronto Blues Society’s Women’s Blues Revue since its inception in 1986. Colleen’s own recordings as a leader draw from her seasoned experience as a musician performing in a variety of genres and situations. Colleen is a beloved mentor and teacher of music for 15 years now at Humber College and a regular adjudicator/clinician for MusicFest Canada and the TD Jazz Education Program in Picton.

Josh Grossman

Josh Grossman is the artistic director for Toronto Downtown Jazz, producers of the annual TD Toronto Jazz Festival, one of Canada’s largest international music festivals. A graduate of the University of Toronto’s jazz performance program, Josh is a freelance trumpeter and the founding artistic director and conductor for the 18-piece Toronto Jazz Orchestra, now in its 21st year. His extensive arts administration experience includes time as performance manager for the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory; manager for the High Park Choirs of Toronto; operations manager for Continuum Contemporary Music; and artistic director for the Markham Jazz Festival.

Photo credit: Marie Byers

Aline Homzy

Aline Homzy is an award-winning violinist and composer. Originally from Montreal, born to a Québécois mom and an American dad with Eastern-European roots, Aline creates original music that embodies her own unique sound that reflects her culturally diverse background. Now living in Toronto, Aline is in high demand as an improvising violinist (Juno-nominated), composer (recipient of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Explore the Score), teacher (private, Humber College, University of Toronto and Sistema Toronto) and as a session player around the world. Aline’s most important Toronto-based performances and collaborations have been with David Occhipinti, Amanda Tosoff, Allison Au, Michael Davidson and Andrew Downing. She has performed or recorded with Munir Hossn, Barry Harris, Ben Wendel, Danilo Perez and many more. Aline has played at the Daigu International Jazz Festival in South Korea, the Stockholm International Jazz Festival, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Before the pandemic, Aline produced a sold-out concert featuring some of the top female improvisers in Toronto and abroad, which won the highest score and was supported by the TD Discovery Series Special Projects. Aline is currently working on releasing a new initiative, providing musicians with meaningful opportunities surrounding communities dictated by electoral boundaries.

Céline Peterson

Producer and artist representative Céline Peterson has presented concerts and given inspiring speeches all over the globe, including Canada, the United States, Denmark, Barbados, Switzerland and South America. She manages some of the most exciting jazz artists on the scene today, including Juno Award winner Robi Botos, Ellis Marsalis Piano Competition winner Ben Paterson, and Order of Canada member Dave Young. She is a producer of the Kensington Market Jazz Festival, which takes place every September in the heart of downtown Toronto, presenting more than 400 local artists in 24 venues to more than 5,000 patrons. Céline has also worked extensively with Coalition Canada and their Youth4Music initiative as an ambassador. Céline has always been a proud ally to the up-and-coming generations of musicians, and along with her work at the coalition, has done workshops at various schools including Durham College and the Chicago Academy for the Arts.

Dione Taylor

Music has always been an integral part of Dione Taylor’s life. A pastor’s daughter, she was raised in a family she describes as “really connected to the gift of song.” Ms. Taylor began playing the organ at age four and by ten was the music director and organist at her family church in Regina, Sask. She continued on with her classical studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music for voice and piano and upon graduation from Humber College, Ms. Taylor burst onto the music scene with her Juno-nominated debut album Open Your Eyes. Since then, her career trajectory has been truly remarkable. She has performed for audiences that have included the President of the United States and Queen Elizabeth II and has made a worthy name for herself as one of this country’s most talented singer-songwriters. Taylor was nominated for a Gemini Award for her rendition of Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom, which she performed alongside Oliver Jones at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala. Taylor is also the recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award Mentorship Program. Dione’s latest album Spirits in the Water was nominated for a Juno Award.

Photo credit: Crilaphoto

Hüma Üster

A newcomer to Canada, Hüma Üster completed the Humber College arts management graduate program in 2017. Having recently started her new job at the Pia Bouman School of Ballet & Creative Movement as the operations manager, she has been working with the Toronto Blues Society as an office manager and events coordinator for the past four years. Hüma has had extensive experience in the media relations department of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts before moving to Canada.

Our sponsor

Pat and Tony Adams shared a deep love for each other, and for the arts. They were devoted fans of jazz music, theatre, improvisation and comedy, and had great respect and affection for those who dedicated their lives to pursuing these passions professionally. It’s not surprising then that all three of their children also went on to pursue careers in the arts.

The Pat and Tony Adams Freedom Fund for the Arts is a legacy fund that continues Pat and Tony’s tradition of encouraging such artists, giving them the opportunity to develop their skills and share their talents with audiences everywhere.

“I was absolutely delighted to be able to work with JAZZ.FM91 to create a unique opportunity to highlight the incredible talents of women in jazz, who we have yet to discover, and I am thrilled by this year’s recipients,” said Shari Hollett, administrator of the the Pat and Tony Adams Freedom Fund for the Arts.