Folk Music Ontario presents three major annual awards: the Estelle Klein Award, the Songs From the Heart: Stingray Rising Stars Award, and the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award. The Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award is presented in partnership with the Ontario Arts Council.

Songs From the Heart

Deadline: May 31, 2016

Folk Music Ontario’s Songs From the Heart songwriting competition is generously sponsored by Stingray Music. This event highlights the creations of songwriters and provides an opportunity for the winners to showcase their work for the FMO community. The competition is open to residents of Ontario and the National Capital Region, as defined by the boundaries indicated by the black dotted line on this map.

A jury selects two grand prize winners: one English and one French. The winners each receive a Stingray Rising Stars Award of $1,000.00, and one registration for the 2016 Folk Music Ontario conference. Prizes of $100.00 FMO credit are awarded to the winners of each of five sub-categories: Children’s, Humorous, Instrumental, Multicultural and Political.

The English and French Songs From the Heart award winners and sub-category winners are all invited to showcase their winning songs at the FMO conference. Recipients of the overall and sub-category awards will be notified in summer 2016.

The Songs From the Heart jury changes every year. It always consists of three or more jurors, who proceed through a number of rounds of judging before making their final selections. Before distributing songs and lyrics to the jurors, FMO makes every effort to keep the judging process fair by removing any names or notes that may identify the composer of a submitted song.

Online applications for the 2016 FMO Songs From the Heart competition are provided through a partnership with Marcato Digital.

Applications are now being accepted, until May 31, 2016. (Mailed-in applications must be postmarked by this date.)

Apply online for Songs From the Heart (FMO member)
Apply online for Songs From the Heart (non-member)


Download a Songs From the Heart application form (English PDF | French PDF)
Deadline: May 31, 2016

2015 Songs From the Heart award recipients

The grand prize winners of the 21st annual Folk Music Ontario Songs From the Heart songwriting competition, generously sponsored by Stingray Music, were:

Stingray Rising Stars Award – English:
Allison Lupton for “One More Day”

Stingray Rising Stars Award – French:
Melanie Brulée and Anique Granger for “Antidote du doute”

2015 SFTH award winners

(L to R): French SFTH winners Anique Granger & Melanie Brulée, English SFTH winner Allison Lupton, Stingray Music’s Greg Torrington

In addition, the Songs From the Heart jury chose the winners of five sub-categories:

Children’s Rory Gardiner for “Don’t Ever Change”
Humorous Shawna Caspi for “Devil’s Rolling Pin”
Instrumental Kunle for “My Little Fingers”
Multicultural Glen Hornblast for “Freedom Train”
Political Shawna Caspi for “Not So Silent”

Read the full press release here.

Past Overall Winners

  • 2014 – English: Ian Tamblyn – “Away”
  • 2014 – French: Jean-Marc Lalonde – “C’est toi que ça me prend”
  • 2013 – English: Bill Candy – “Idle Never More”
  • 2013 – French: YAO (Yaovi Hoyi) – “Pensées-soleil”
  • 2012 – English: Tucker Finn – “Headed for Nowhere”
  • 2012 – French: Philippe Flahaut – “Seul dans l’auto avec la radio”
  • 2011 – English: Brenley MacEachern & Lisa MacIsaac – “The Ransom”
  • 2011 – French: Yvan Vollé – “Solitude”
  • 2010 – English: Ambre McLean – “Me, My Heart, And The Moon”
  • 2010 – French: Louis-Philippe Robillard – “Le Pommier”
  • 2009 – English: David Leask and Bruce Madole – “While I Still Breathe”
  • 2009 – French: Cindy Doire and Colin Linden – “Pêché de la mer”
  • 2008 – English: Michael Laderoute – “A River I Know”
  • 2008 – French: Amélie Lefebvre – “Je t’attends”
  • 2007 – English: Catherine McInnes – “Waltzing on Eggshells”
  • 2007 – French: Charlie Sohmer – “Marie Anne Lagimodiere”
  • 2006 – English: Ana Miura – “He Swallows Whiskey”
  • 2006 – French: Phil Lafrenière – “Je Pleure et Je Perds”
  • 2005 – English: Melwood Cutlery – “Ballad of the Moonlight Lady”
  • 2005 – French: Jean-Guy ‘Chuck’ Labelle – “Le Calumet de la Paix”
  • 2004 – English: Michelle Rasky – “Into the New”
  • 2004 – French: Darryn Grandbois – “Oh! Canada” and Michel Payment – “Ouendaké”

» See the complete list of awards presented in the Songs From the Heart competition since its inception in 1995.

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Estelle Klein Award

2015 EKA recipient Sadie BuckEach year, Folk Music Ontario honours the work of an individual or group that has made significant contributions to Ontario’s folk music community. The award is named after Estelle Klein, a long-time advocate of Canadian folk music and one of the early founders of the folk festival scene in this country. The recipient of the Estelle Klein Award in 2015 was Sadie Buck.

Sadie Buck comes from a long line of traditional singers and performers. Representing the Onkwehonwe people, she is from the Seneca nation of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and Tonawanda Seneca. Currently a part-time instructor at UWO and sessional instructor at McMaster University, she has also taught at Harvard University, Hamilton College, University of Toronto and at the National Aboriginal and Islanders Skills Development Corporation in Australia.
Sadie has performed all over the world, including at the opening ceremonies of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in February 2002 along with Robbie Robertson. Sadie also collaborated with Robertson on his critically acclaimed album “Contact of the Underworld of Red Boy”.

Sadie is also the lead singer of the Six Nations Women’s Singers, one of the most influential female Native singing groups. They have recorded with Robbie Robertson and performed at the Presidential inauguration in 1997. The group, which includes members of the Seneca, Onondaga, and Cayuga tribes, focuses on the religious and social music of the Longhouse Tradition. Their numerous recordings include Edwadrenodo:nyo, a selection of traditional songs from the Seneca, Onondaga, and Cayuga Nations.

Sadie Buck was responsible for envisioning the Aboriginal Women’s Music Program at the Banff Centre, where she organized and helped to record the Juno-nominated song “Hearts of the Nations”. She ran this program for over three years and Aboriginal women from all over the world gathered to collaborate together, sing and perform.

No stranger to composition, Sadie also wrote and co-directed the 19-cast member Aboriginal dance opera “Bones” which premiered at the Banff Centre in 2001. Based on traditional music from around the world and performed in a language created by Sadie, this opera was celebrated with three fantastic performances to standing ovations.

Not to be left out of the children’s forum, Sadie and some of the women from the Six Nations Women’s Singers also enjoyed the opportunity to guest on the CBC children’s programming interstitial Yamma Mamma.

Sadie Buck has been responsible for inspiring next generations of both community and professional singers in the Aboriginal communities on Turtle Island. She has been instrumental in the preservation of the traditional songs of her people and has also brought her strong, powerful voice to the world at large, celebrating a unique music style that is only now being recognized within the framework of the folk industry at large.

Sadie Buck received her award during the Awards Brunch at the 29th annual FMO conference on October 18, 2015 at the Westin Bristol Place in Toronto.

2016 EKA Nominations

Is there someone you know who you think deserves recognition and the company of people like Sadie Buck or any of the other past winners listed below? Then nominate them for the Estelle Klein Award!

Nominees for the Estelle Klein Award must reside in Ontario or the National Capital Region, as defined by the boundaries indicated by the black dotted line on this map.

To nominate someone for the 2016 Estelle Klein Award:
Download and complete the nomination form (English | French)

Submission deadline: May 31, 2016

Past Winners

  • 2014: Harvey Glatt
  • 2013: Mike Stevens
  • 2012: Arthur McGregor
  • 2011: Paul Mills
  • 2010: Grit Laskin
  • 2009: Sharon, Lois & Bram
  • 2008: Bernie Finkelstein
  • 2007: Stan Rogers
  • 2006: Richard Flohil
  • 2005: Ken Whiteley
  • 2004: Sylvia Tyson
  • 2003: The Friends of Fiddler’s Green
  • 2002: Ian Tamblyn
  • 2001: Jackie Washington
  • 2000: Estelle Klein

Estelle Klein Award videos

From 2010-2012, Andy Frank of Roots Music Canada and frankcasting new media produced videos about each year’s Estelle Klein Award winner. Click here to view these videos.

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The Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award

Colleen Peterson

Ontario Arts Council LogoThe Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award was established to help support and promote the work of Ontario-resident emerging singer/songwriters in the genres of roots, traditional, folk and country music. The annual recipient is chosen by an Ontario Arts Council (OAC) selection panel from nominations put forward by Folk Music Ontario’s Songs From the Heart competition jury.

Ontario singer-songwriter Colleen Peterson had a soaring voice, engaging stage presence and a proven songwriting talent. The recipient of two Juno Awards, Colleen collaborated with a long list of folk, roots and country musicians, and was a founding member of the celebrated group Quartette. After a year-long battle with cancer, Colleen passed away at the age of 45 in 1996, and was inducted posthumously into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.

The Colleen Peterson Award winner is invited to showcase his/her winning song at the FMO conference, as part of the Songs From the Heart showcase.

Toronto, October 15, 2015 – Singer-songwriter Graydon James is this year’s recipient of the Ontario Arts Council’s (OAC) Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award, for his song “Couldn’t Be Any Worse.” The award was presented on Sunday, October 18, 2015, at Folk Music Ontario’s annual conference.

About Graydon James

Born and raised in a small town north of Kingston, Ont., Graydon currently resides in Toronto. His songwriting often explores themes of small-town life, as well as relationships both traditional and non-traditional.

Graydon’s band, The Young Novelists, have released an EP, two studio albums and a live album. Their latest album, made us strangers, has received two Canadian Folk Music Awards nominations. They also won the 2015 Connecticut Folk Festival Grassy Hill Songwriting Competition.

The Young Novelists have toured across Canada, the Midwestern and Northeastern United States, and just completed their first European tour. They have played the Mariposa Folk Festival, Summerfolk and the Halifax Urban Folk Festival, along with several American festivals.

Graydon is also an author, and published his first novel, The Mall of Small Frustrations, in 2013.

“‘Couldn’t Be Any Worse’ is a completely perfect song,” said the jury, which was unanimous in its choice. “It’s a beautifully crafted story of the kind of relationship we’ve all had – the one that didn’t work out and still haunts you. We wanted to listen to it again and again!”

About the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award

  • The Colleen Peterson Songwriting Fund was established at the Ontario Arts Council in 2003 by Peterson’s sister, Shirley Richardson, and singer-songwriter Laura Bird.
  • The annual $1,000 award honours Peterson’s contribution to Canadian music by supporting and promoting the work of Ontario-resident emerging singer-songwriters in the roots, traditional, folk and country genres.
  • Nominations are received from Folk Music Ontario’s “Songs from the Heart” competition. OAC assembles the jury that chooses the award recipient.
  • This year’s jury consisted of Sean Conway (Peterborough), Sarah Smith (London) and Kristine St-Pierre (Ottawa).
MB_Rita Davies and Graydon James - CPA

Rita Davies (Ontario Arts Council) and Graydon James

Past Winners

Colleen Peterson Award

  • 2014: Ken Yates – “The One That Got Away”
  • 2013: Leila Goldberger – “Sisters”
  • 2012: Ariana Gillis – “Dream Street”
  • 2011: Alise Marlane – “L’aurore boréale”
  • 2010: Lynne Hanson – “Rest of My Days”
  • 2009: Kyrie Kristmanson – “Song X”
  • 2008: Chris MacLean – “Feet Be Still”
  • 2007: Brooke Miller – “Two Soldiers”
  • 2006: Andy Sheppard – “Until Next Time”
  • 2005: Lori Cullen and Brian Macmillan – “Away So Long”
  • 2004: David Gillis – “A Mouse’s Crumb”
  • 2003: Evalyn Parry – “The Stone and The Bumblebee”
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The Folk Music Ontario Taylor Mitchell Bursary

Taylor Mitchell

In 2010, in memory of her daughter, Canadian songwriter Taylor Mitchell, Emily Mitchell established The OCFF Taylor Mitchell Bursary for participants in the Folk Music Ontario Youth Performer program. Initially funded for five years (2010-2014 inclusive), the bursary has recently received additional funding, allowing it to be awarded through the 2019 conference. The renewed intention of the bursary is to provide a means for applicants whose circumstances might not otherwise permit them to attend to overcome any obstacles that might prevent them from attending.

One young performer is chosen to receive up to $500 towards costs associated with attending the conference and participating in the performer stream of the Folk Music Ontario youth program. Applicants wishing to be considered for the bursary must be nominated for the bursary by a teacher/community member/mentor, in light of the goals of the bursary program. All candidates chosen by jury to participate in the program are eligible for the bursary. The recipient is determined according to need by a group of musical mentors who knew and loved Taylor.

In 2013, the award’s name was changed to The Folk Music Ontario Taylor Mitchell Bursary.

2015 Taylor Mitchell award recipient Braden Phelan

21-year-old guitarist and singer Braden Phelan of Guelph was the recipient of the 2015 Taylor Mitchell Bursary. Braden focuses on writing songs for both solo and ensemble settings, with a varied and dynamic catalog. A recent graduate of the Indie Music Program at Seneca College, Braden has expanded his interests and expertise to include engineering, management, live sound, and production. He will be releasing his debut full-length album on October 10th.

Past Recipients

  • 2014: Benjamin Dakota Rogers, Brantford
  • 2013: Ben Turcotte, Port Elgin
  • 2012: Emily Kohne, Thunder Bay
  • 2011: Binaeshee-Quae Couchie-Nabigon, Pic River
  • 2010: Maria Tullio, Port Hope

Attending the FMO Youth Mentorship Program far exceeded my expectations. I was extremely excited to learn I had been awarded the Taylor Mitchell Bursary. Financially it allowed me to attend the conference and take in all it has to offer. It was an honour to meet Emily Mitchell, Taylor’s mother. The connections we made during the FMO conference confirmed my desire to make music my lifelong passion!

Benjamin Dakota Rogers, 2014 Taylor Mitchell Bursary recipient

I was so grateful to be last year’s recipient of the Taylor Mitchell Bursary. Being a university student and all, money is a bit tight and it was questionable weather or not I’d be able to attend had I not received the bursary. So again, a huge thanks goes to the Mitchell family for making it possible for me to experience such a truly awesome event.

Ben Turcotte, 2013 Taylor Mitchell Bursary recipient

At Folk Music Ontario, young musicians are given the opportunity to take part in the Youth Program. One person is awarded the Taylor Mitchell Bursary, which goes towards conference costs such as registration, accommodation, and flights (for people like me who were coming from a distance). I was lucky enough to receive this bursary as a youth showcase artist in 2012. This gave me the opportunity to attend the conference, which I would not have been able to do otherwise. Being able to attend FMO gave my music the boost from pastime to career.

I am now in Australia, preparing for the beginning of my first out-of-country tour with my duo partner Murray Thiessen. Every time I feel success with my music career, I know that I couldn’t be where I am without the Youth Program and the Taylor Mitchell Bursary.

Emily Kohne, 2012 Taylor Mitchell Bursary recipient

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