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Submitted byAndres onMon, 04/29/2024 - 13:57

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As a beacon of musical education, empowerment, and community engagement, Sistema Toronto is proud to provide a nurturing environment where talent thrives and diverse voices are celebrated. Our teaching staff, administrative team, and guest artists include women composers who showcase their creativity, innovation, and unique perspectives in their teaching, playing, composing, and mentorship of our students. Through its repertoire and programming, Sistema Toronto actively promotes gender equity and inclusivity, recognizing the invaluable contributions of women musicians to the classical music landscape, and striving to empower and inspire a new generation of women in music

We’d like to dedicate this month’s blog post to celebrating some of the exceptional women composers that our students have had the honour to engage with – both those within Sistema Toronto, and those who have contributed to our programming and performances through their work. In celebrating the achievements of these women composers, we not only honour their remarkable talent but also recognize the importance of creating spaces where women musicians can thrive. By amplifying their voices and sharing their stories, we hope to inspire future generations of women composers and pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable classical music community.



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Terry Cade is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist, composer, arranger, and music educator who has performed throughout Canada and the USA. She began singing at age 12, and her formal music training later took place at the Royal Conservatory of Music; York University; The Berklee College of Music; and The Manhattan School of Music. To date, she has recorded two albums and has been awarded the Canada Council Award for the Arts and the Factor Award for New Talent, as well as performing as a featured artist in the Women in Jazz series at the New York Jazz Festival. 

Terry teaches our Music and Movement students: the youngest in the Sistema Toronto program. Her care, joy, and patience make her classroom a safe place for these young musicians to play, explore, and express themselves through song, dance, and percussion beats. Terry's encouragement and enthusiasm help her students build confidence, curiosity, excitement, and a solid set of fundamental musical skills they can later apply when picking up string instruments. ⁠She has also recently begun teaching Music and Movement lessons to  students ages 3-4 at the York Woods Library as an extension of Sistema Toronto’s programming.

Currently, Terry is leading Vocal Jazz Workshops for adults and preparing to record her third album for which she is writing and arranging all the material. She has upcoming performances this Spring and Summer in NYC and Toronto, including one at the Sistema Spirit Gala on May 8th (if you don't have your tickets yet, visit )



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Jesse Montgomery is the Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as well as an acclaimed violinist and educator. In 2023 she was Musical America’s Composer of the Year and won the GRAMMY award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. Her impressive career is studded with awards, accolades, fellowships, world premieres, and teaching appointments, and she is currently a doctoral candidate in Music Composition at Princeton University.

In 2023, Montgomery was one of the composers involved in orchestrating and arranging the music for Volcano Theatre’s production of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha: a show about the immediate post-slavery era. The show marked many firsts for the Canadian opera scene: it included the first all-Black orchestra in Canadian opera history; was conducted by the first Black woman conductor in Canadian opera history; and was the first fully-staged professional production of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha in Canadian history, to name only a few. Sistema students were thrilled to learn some of the songs from this production and had the opportunity to sing along with the cast during a matinee performance. 

Sistema students have also enjoyed playing Montgomery’s D+ Jam as a recurring number in their repertoire. They played this song during their March 2nd concert, Scarborough Celebrates Women Composers, in which they played alongside the University of Toronto Scarborough String Orchestra and Sir Oliver Mowat Senior Orchestra in a showcase celebrating the work of women composers that was conducted by Jennifer Tung (see bio below).  Listen to their performance:



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Rae Gallimore's musical background is nothing short of impressive: she is a graduate of the Juilliard School, the New England Conservatory, and the Victoria Conservatory of Music through Camosun College, and she has played as a soloist with the Sooke Philharmonic and Sidney Classical Orchestra. She loves to share her passion for music with those who may otherwise not have the opportunity to see performances or learn an instrument, and has brought her music to public schools, hospitals, and retirement homes as both an educator and a performer.⁠ She has been a respected teaching artist at Sistema Toronto since September, 2021, where her students love her humour, care, and encouragement.

Besides her music career, Rae is also a talented comedian who performs stand up and has recently completed the first episode of her web series, Viola! A Musical Webseries after a successful crowdsourcing campaign. You can watch the prelude here:



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Jennifer Tung is a Dora-nominated conductor, Artistic Director of Toronto City Opera, and Assistant Conductor of the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra. In 2020/21, Tung joined Tapestry Opera as a conducting fellow in the inaugural year of the Women in Musical Leadership (WML) program. WML is a three-year program that addresses a historic gender inequity on the podium by providing women and non-binary conductors with professional experience and training.

Jennifer has been working with Sistema’s honours students this year, bringing her expertise as a conductor and an educator to bear directly with our students, and with our staff. This year Jennifer visited each centre for workshops with the honours ensemble students at that centre and presented a PD session for teachers on conducting and rehearsal technique. At the beginning of March, she also conducted Sistema Toronto’s Honours Orchestra alongside the University of Toronto Scarborough String Orchestra and the Sir Oliver Mowat CI Senior Orchestra in a performance titled Scarborough Celebrates Women Composers. Playing together as a group of over 130 musicians, this showcase featured the music of Caryn Wiegand Neidhold, Yukiko Nishimura, and Jessie Montgomery. (add video)

On April 29th, Jennifer led the keynote “Expressive Performance” workshop at our Honours Symposium.

Currently, Jennifer is working on a production titled Iron Chef D’Orchestre, a collaboration with Tapestry Opera and Keith Klassen that merges game show elements with improv, ventriloquism, and audience participation. You can find out more about the show and purchase tickets here.



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Morgan Paige Melbourne is an interdisciplinary artist whose lifelong relationship with the piano began at age 3. She has since earned Associate and Licentiate diplomas in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music, and received countless awards and accolades including numerous regional and national music festival wins for solo piano within Canada, and short film music scoring. Beyond this, she has performed as a soloist and orchestral pianist with the Guelph Symphony Orchestra; studied with piano virtuoso André Laplante at Orford Music Academy; and performed a benefit concert for Sistema Toronto, as well as participating in countless other celebrated projects, collaborations, performances, and initiatives. She is currently collaborating with cellist, composer, writer, and conductor, Kathryn Knowles (see bio below), on a musical titled Between Fires, funded by the Canada Council for the Arts. 

Morgan was a teacher at our Scarborough, Yorkwoods, and Parkdale centres for several years, where her students valued her enthusiasm, grace, patience, and capacity for making genuine connections with them. She has since joined the Sistema Toronto administrative team as the Development Officer, where she works to help keep the program thriving and growing.

In addition to her work at Sistema, Morgan is currently engaged in a project that comes from her heart: giving back to her community by creating a safe space for creation and learning where access to resources is open and free, and where low-income, youth, POC, 2SLGBTQIA+ people are prioritized. In this Regent Park studio space, Morgan will offer free individual and group lessons in piano, theory, composition, and music production, as well as in-kind services towards equipment for recording and access to a grand piano.



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Together, Magdelys (Mags) Sevigne Carrion and Elizabeth Rodriguez make up OKAN: a multi Juno award-winning, queer women-led ensemble that blends Afro-Cuban roots with jazz, folk, and global rhythms to produce heartfelt music broaching topics of immigration, courage, intimacy, emotion, and love.These two exceptional musicians were teachers at Sistema Toronto - Scarborough for nearly 8 years, from 2016 to 2024. Their legacy lives on amongst students who were deeply influenced by their care and attention.

Mags was a beloved teaching artist amongst Scarborough’s Music & Movement students, teaching with warmth and care and guiding them towards precision, vibrancy, and enthusiasm in their percussion playing. Never afraid to present her students with challenging work, Mags was treasured by her students for her capacity to offer support as she dared them to try new things, explore their potential, and push themselves to excellence.

Elizabeth, who taught violin, was cherished by her students for her honesty, energy, dedication, and punchy humour. Her firm belief in her students’ potential manifested in her strict but fair teaching style, which her students described as inspiring because it showed the depth of her care for them. Funny, witty, and steadfast, Elizabeth’s guidance helped her students feel safe and comforted as they challenged themselves to be their best.

In March, OKAN was awarded the 2024 Juno for Global Music Album of the Year for their newest album, OKANTOMI. To learn more about their music, visit



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Kathryn Knowles is a composer, conductor, cellist, and writer with glowing achievements throughout her musical career. She holds a Bachelor of Music and a Master of International Business from Queen’s University, as well as a Master in Music Composition from the University of Toronto where she was awarded the Joseph Armand Bombardier Canadian Graduate Scholarship. Her work has been commissioned and performed by various soloists and groups, including Slowrise Music, Vc2 Cello Duo, Joseph Petric, and Martin Carpentier. In 2023, her piece titled A Strange and Preposterous Affair was commissioned by the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and premiered in October 2023, and she is serving as one of the Composer Fellows with the HPO for the 2023/4 season. She also performs regularly in Toronto as part of various chamber ensembles, and has recorded with Lindsay Schoolcraft and multi-Juno winning band OKAN. 

Aside from her musical achievements, Kathryn is also a celebrated writer whose poem, Beyond the Black Horizon’s Crease and short story Lester’s Bird Feeder received honourable mention in the Writer’s Digest 89th Annual Writing Competition. She has also released a trilogy of fantasy novels, The Quiescence Trilogy, which are available for purchase, and she plans to release another novel and a book of poems within the next year. Combining her love of writing and music, Kathryn is currently collaborating with pianist, composer, and singer, Morgan-Paige Melbourne (see bio above), on a musical titled Between Fires, funded by the Canada Council for the Arts.