Joanna Majoko wins Toronto Arts Foundation’s emerging jazz artist award for 2021

Leading artists and organizations were celebrated for their work in creating and promoting art and culture in this year’s edition of the Toronto Arts Foundation‘s annual awards.

The winner of the award for emerging jazz artist in 2021 was vocalist, composer and bandleader Joanna Majoko.

“I just want to thank you all so much. I did not expect this to happen,” Majoko said. “Thank you to my nominator. Thank you for believing in me.”

Over the years, Majoko has earned a reputation as one of Canada’s most exciting young singers, sharing the stage with artists such as Jane Bunnett, Larnell Lewis and David Clayton-Thomas. She has performed at some of the world’s biggest festivals, including the Montreal Jazz Festival.

Born in Germany, Majoko spent the majority of her childhood in Zimbabwe before moving to Winnipeg as a teenager. She became immersed in jazz while studying at the University of Manitoba, then moved to Toronto and has since become a fixture of the city’s diverse and vibrant jazz scene.

This year, Majoko finally took a big step in her musical career, releasing her debut solo recording, No Holding Back.

The finalists for the emerging jazz artist award were Virginia MacDonald and Sarah Thawer. Last year’s winner was saxophonist and composer Jesse Ryan.


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The award is supported by Cheryl and Manuel Buchwald and presented in partnership with TD Toronto Jazz Festival.

Supported by donors, the Toronto Arts Foundation distributed a total of $72,000 in awards to this year’s recipients and finalists. They were presented in a virtual ceremony at the annual Mayor’s Arts Lunch, hosted by Jesse Wente.

“We would not have made it through the pandemic if it wasn’t for the arts,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory. “I know that the arts and artists will play a huge role in inspiring [and] getting people back out in our city.”

“Arts and our artists are what make Toronto the city it is,” said Claire Hopkinson, director and CEO of the Toronto Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Foundation. “Our artists are a symbol of resilience, perseverance and strength.”