Thank-you to our 2020 National Award Judges!

Our judges for the 2020 National Performance Awards are Cheryl Duvall, Matt Poon, and Stephen Runge.  Read more about the judges below.

Cheryl Duvall

Toronto-based pianist Cheryl Duvall has established herself as one of Canada’s foremost contemporary music interpreters, immersing herself in a wide variety of compositional aesthetics and collaborative endeavours.

In 2012, she co-founded the “adventurous and smartly programmed” (Musicworks Magazine) chamber group Thin Edge New Music Collective. Since their inception, they’ve commissioned over 70 works, mounted lavish multidisciplinary productions such as Balancing On The Edge, and collaborated with leading performers like Charlotte Mundy,  Jason Sharp, Ensemble Paramirabo (with whom they recorded an album.) They’re also widely noted for their direct engagement with composers, and their tours and residencies across Europe, and in Japan and Argentina have positioned them as ambassadors for Canadian music abroad.

Her lucid sense of contour, evocative sonic and emotional presence, and boundless versatility make her both a dynamic soloist and in-demand collaborator.  Recently, Duvall has begun gathering commissioned works from cutting-edge artists from Canada and beyond, including Victoria-based composer Anna Höstman, whose music is the subject of her debut solo recording, Harbour, a highly acclaimed album released in January 2020 on the Redshift Record Label.  Harbour has been featured on the CBC radio and was chosen as the #1 Modern Composition Recording of 2020 by UK’s ‘The Wire’ Magazine.

In 2016 her formidable skill was recognized with a nomination for the KM Hunter Award. Duvall also regularly performs outside of contemporary music spheres, notably with American violinist Andrew Sords, and accompanying the renowned Oakville Choir for Children and Youth, with whom she has toured, recorded and competed internationally (with gold standings). She operates a full private teaching studio, is a member of the College of Examiners with the Royal Conservatory of Music, and adjudicates piano competitions across Canada.


Matt Poon

Pianist and composer Matt Poon advocates music of our time by performing, creating, researching, and improvising.  His dedication has granted him awards including first prize and prize for best performance of commissioned work in the Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition, first prize in the American String Quartet Composition Competition, and first prize in the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra Open Call for Works.  Matt has received Canada Arts Council and Ontario Arts Council grants, and he was listed on CBC/Radio-Canada as one of the “30 Hot Canadian Classical Musicians Under 30 in 2016”.

As a laureate of the E-Gré Competition, Matt performed a 10-city concert tour across Canada and a debut concert in Italy promoting contemporary piano music, including his own composition and repertoire with extended techniques written by Canadian and International composers.  Matt performed in multimedia productions, as a pianist-performer for Hong Kong Exile (Vancouver) touring across Canada, Asia, and Europe, including the Gaudeamus Muziekweek, and as a pianist-improviser for Volcano Theatre.  As a former member of Tactus and the Contemporary Music Ensemble at U of T, Matt premiered chamber works by Hong Kong and American composers at the Manhattan-Hong Kong festival, and performed chamber works by established Canadian and International composers.  Matt was featured in part of the “Young Artist Overture” series by Soundstreams Canada, and as a composer-performer at the Stone NYC and the Integral House.

Matt holds a MM in Performance and a MM in Composition from the Manhattan School of Music, and a BM from the University of Toronto.


Stephen Runge

Praised for his sensitivity and versatility, pianist Stephen Runge has been heard from Victoria to Halifax as soloist and collaborative artist. Stephen has been broadcast nationally on CBC Radio Two and La Chaîne Culturelle de Radio-Canada, receiving special recognition as soloist and for his frequent performances of chamber music and art song. In recent seasons he has shared the stage with artists such as violinists Jasper Wood, Andréa Tyniec and Kerry DuWors, tenor David Pomeroy, mezzo-sopranos Krisztina Szabó and Patricia Green, and pianist Adam Sherkin, and has appeared as soloist with the Regina Symphony Orchestra and the Mount Allison Chamber Orchestra. Stephen has recorded all the major works for solo piano by Robert Schumann, an album of solo piano works from 1917, and a recital of English art song with countertenor Daniel Cabena. 

Holding a Doctorate of Music in Piano Performance from l’Université de Montréal, Stephen also holds degrees from the University of Victoria and The Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan, he is in demand across the country as teacher, adjudicator, and clinician. Stephen is on faculty at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, where he is currently Head of the Department of Music, Associate Professor of Piano, and Director of Mount Allison Local Centre Examinations in Music. In recognition of his outstanding teaching, research, creative activities, and service, Mount Allison has awarded him a Paul Paré Excellence Award in 2010, the J.E.A. Crake Award for excellence in teaching in the Faculty of Arts in 2014, and the Paul Paré Medal in 2020. 

A Composer’s Letter by Andrew Balfour

Every year, we invite a Canadian composer to write an open letter for the program pages of the Contemporary Showcase Festivals taking place across the country.  This year’s composer is Andrew Balfour.



Thank you to ACNMP for giving me this opportunity to reach out to all of you in these uncertain times. The wide, all-encompassing impact of COVID 19 has touched our lives and careers in all ways, and the uncertainty of the future is certainly frightening. At the same time, I feel that that we are on the cusp of exciting and monumental changes to the landscape of music-making of all genres. I dislike labels to different styles of music, such as classical, rock, jazz, country, folk etc., and I sometimes feel that we have to break down the barriers of these labels to go into the true spirit of our creativity and to ascend beyond the boundaries of the Euro-centric approach to music-making.

There are new and undeniable changes in the future of music-making, and that may be unsettling for so many that are steeped in the old traditions of composing and performing contemporary music. The old institutions such as symphony, opera, ballet, choral, chamber are already trying to adapt to this future, and I feel that perhaps COVID 19 has presented us with an opportunity that has been a long time coming. We already knew long before the virus that major changes were vital for the survival of these institutions. This time is important for us to communicate, listen, collaborate, reach out and most importantly respect each other as we go down a new path of music creativity and production.

As a composer, this presents monumental changes; we have to be up to these challenges of ever-changing landscapes -social, economic, cultural, environmental, and, even political considerations.  The creative voices of our music, dance, theatre, literature are more important than ever at this time. Society will always need the voices and vision of artists.

I feel that collaborations and multi-medium explorations will be important for our future creativity. Thinking outside the box seems more vital than ever. As we have been locked down for some time for the past 6 months – and most likely seem destined to some more of social isolation – we can take this time to reach out and communicate, study and listen to what other artists are doing and how they are approaching their own creative projects.

For so long, we have been led by the institutions of performance and funding by THEIR definition of what we have to do in our creative silos. I feel that it is time to take back the idea of innovation, outside-the-box creativity, and collaborations. This is our time.

Our voices are more important than ever.  Music performance and production, at least in the form that we have been brought up with, have changed forever. I feel that is a good thing.  It will break down barriers and make more opportunity for artists in a multicultural country, such as ours, to tear down the layers of hierarchy in the arts and focus on the creativity of our wonderful and important art.

Most importantly, no matter what, my last thought is this: Be true to yourselves, be true to your music-making and your spirit.

Be well, be safe, and be true.

Chi megwiich!!

Andrew Balfour