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A b o u t  T h e  P r o j e c t

The Canadian Women Composers (CWC) Project is dedicated to bringing greater awareness to vocal music by Canadian women composers. In our 2017/18 season, as part of an initiative to promote the performance of Canadian women's music, The CWC Project took an hour-long recital of vocal repertoire by Canadian women across the country. In the 2018/19 season, we will continue to support the music of Canadian women in a concert series spanning multiple genres: from jazz to opera. Some of the composers featured on our various programmes include Gena Branscombe, Jean Coulthard, Jean Ethridge, Carol Ann Weaver, Mary Gardiner, Ana Sokolovic, Jana Skarecky, Martha Hill Duncan, Katerina Gimon, Maria Eduarda Mendes Martins, Nova Pon, Marla Kishimoto, Hanna Kim, Carmen Braden, Julia Mermelstein, Lieke Van der Voort, Juliet Palmer, and two works commissioned for the project by Julia Jacklein and Rebekah Cummings. 

Not only does this project highlight Canadian women’s music, but it also gives opportunities to other Canadian female artists. Most of the poetry has been written by Canadian poets including Madeleine Guimont, P.K. Page, Judith Miller, Majorie Pickthall, Beatrice Redpath, and E. Pauline Johnson, Canadian female designer, Carly Cumpson, has created the performance wear that will be worn for each recital, and many of the musicians who will perform the recitals are also Canadian women. It is a celebration of women in Canada!

B i o g r a p h i e s

Clarisse Tonigussi - Soprano

Clarisse Tonigussi has always had a deep love of music. As a child she spent countless hours at the piano playing the songs that sprung into her head and enjoyed everything that her voice and the beautiful sound of the piano had to offer.


She furthered her love of music at the University of Toronto and received an Undergraduate degree in Voice Performance, graduating with Honours. She went on to complete a Masters degree in Voice Performance studies, also at the University of Toronto.


Ms. Tonigussi has performed roles such as Emmy Perth in the opera Der Vampyr, Papagena, and the First Spirit in The Magic Flute with Summer Opera Lyric Theatre. Her chorus appearances include Romeo et Juliette with the Canadian Vocal Arts Institute, The Mikado and The Student Prince with Toronto Operetta Theatre, and Opera York’s The Merry Widow. She has been a soloist with the Barrie Lyrica Chamber Choir, is a performer with the Toronto group the Hedgerow Singers, is the featured soloist with the touring company Opera Luminata, and is premiering the roles of Gwendolyn and Heather the Hysterical Harp in the new musical Jack & the Beanstalk by William Lavigne


Clarisse is thrilled to share with audiences the music of Canadian women composers in a series of concerts this 2018/19 year.

Narmina Efendiyeva - Piano

Born in Baku (Azerbaijan) as a fourth-generation musician, Narmina always knew that she would join in the family tradition. She gave her first solo concert at the age of 6 and during her studies at the Bülbül Specialized Musical School under the guidance of Adelya Vekilova, Narmina frequently gave solo concerts and performed with orchestra.

In 1994, Narmina entered the U. Hadjibeyov Azerbaijan State Conservatory, graduating in 2000 with a Master’s degree. During this time, she became a prize-winner in many piano contests in Azerbaijan.

From 2001-2010, Narmina worked as an accompanist at the Azerbaijan State Choir.

In 2011, Narmina gave her first concert in Toronto at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church and was awarded the Gwendolyn Koldofsky Prize in Accompanying at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Music. Since then, Narmina has worked as music director and pianist for productions such as Bellinni's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Mozart's The Magic Flute, Madama Butterfly by Puccini, and Ariadne auf Naxos by Strauss with Summer Opera Lyric Theatre, and Borodin's Prince Igor with Opera in Concert. She has also played The Sausy Señorita, The Mikado by Sullivan & Gilbert, Earnest, The Importance of Being by Davies & Benson with Toronto Operetta Theatre, and Kurt Weill's Street Scene with Opera in Concert. In demand as a collaborative pianist and coach, Narmina graduated in the Collaborative Piano Program at the University of Toronto, where she studied with Professor Steven Philcox.

 In 2015, being involved in several great projects, Narmina had the honour of meeting and working with Canadian composers Victor Davies and Peter Togni and enjoyed working under the baton of Robert Cooper, Derek Bate and Larry Beckwith.

Recently, Narmina played Edward Grieg’s Piano concerto with Toronto Ukrainian Orchestra and participated in Syrinx Concert Series with solo and piano duets.

Narmina will be performing concerts Seeing Sound: Where Music and Art Meet and Time Traveller with The CWC Project in the 2018/19 season. Last CWC Project season, Narmina played concerts in Guelph, Toronto, Burlington and Thornhill, Ontario.

Alexandria Harding-Costa - Visual Artist

 Alexandria is a life long artist, inspired by the perfection of nature, and all of life itself. It brings me so much joy to express myself and my passion through art, and I want to share this joy with my audience. My art is intended to inspire the viewer to notice, respect, and appreciate the beauty that is all around us, as well as within us.  Alexandria is the creative director of YogaFest, (a local festival intended to inspire healthy living) recently helped set up the horticulture Décor at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) this year, and also does free lance commission work, murals, photography, and design.

Alexandria will perform concert Seeing Sound: Where Music and Visual Art Meet with The CWC Project in the 2018/19 season.

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Julia Mermelstein - Composer

Julia Mermelstein is a Toronto-based composer, originally from Halifax. Her music focuses on detailed tone colour, textures, and gestural movement that reveal evocative, immersive, and subtly changing soundscapes. She extensively works with electronics, blending acoustic and electronic sound worlds in seamless interactions. Her music takes influence from Buddhist philosophy, psychology, and ritualistic tendencies that shape her relationship to form, stillness, and sense of space.

Julia’s music has been commissioned and performed by leading ensembles, including Blue Rider Ensemble, the Array Ensemble, Ensemble Arkea, Quatuor Bozzini, Toy Piano Composers Ensemble, Windermere String Quartet, among others. Her compositions have been presented at OUA Electronic Music Festival 2017 in Osaka Japan, NAISA’s Deep Wireless Compilation, The Movement Gallery, Festival of Original Theatre, and Open Ears Festival.

Julia received a B.F.A specializing in Composition under Dr. Georges Dimitrov from Concordia University, Montréal in 2013. She continued her studies with composers Linda Catlin Smith, Brian Harman, and Juliet Palmer.

Julia will perform her piece XIV in The CWC Project's concert Seeing Sound: Where Music and Visual Art Meet this 2018/19 season.

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Anna Boyes - Soprano

Anna Boyes has been the winner of the London Music Scholarship Foundation; twice the recipient of the Mariana Paunova and Stefano Algieri Scholarship in Voice and Gaelyne Gabora Memorial Prize from McGill University; the Marianne Turner Memorial Scholarship from Durham Philharmonic Choir and a National Finalist in the Canadian Music Competition.

Her opera, operetta and oratorio credits include Mascha (The Chocolate Soldier) and Nita (Los Gavilanes) with Toronto Operetta Theatre; the title role of Alcina with Accademia Europea dell’Opera in Lucca Italy; Mabel (The Pirates of Penzance); Erste Dame (Die Zauberflote); Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare); Janthe (Der Vampyr); Lieschen (Coffee Cantata); and a soloist in Mendelssohn’s Elijah and in Bach’s Christ Lag Todesbanden.
Anna holds a Masters of Music from Western University and a Bachelor of Music from McGill University. She was recently part of the Stratford Summer Music’s Vocal Academy and will be part of Arcady’s Emerging Artist Program this upcoming year.

Anna will perform Time Traveller with The CWC Project in the 2018/19 season.

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Past Performers

Jenna Richards- Piano

Jenna Richards earned ARCT diplomas in piano and violin before completing high school in her native Halifax. Studying piano performance at the University of Toronto, she garnered consecutive Glenn Gould Scholarships, the Fey Hethrington Scholarship, the Lydia Wong scholarship for excelling in instrumental collaboration and many Nova Scotia Talent Trust Scholarships. She has performed at Tuckamore (St. John’s), the Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts (Toronto), Orford (Quebec), Chamberfest (Ottawa), National Arts Centre (Ottawa), and the TSO’s “Young People’s Concert Series” (Toronto). Currently, Jenna works for the Ottawa Arts Council, Ottawa Chamber Music Society, Ottawa Classical Choir and the Canadian Centennial Choir, and freelances frequently throughout Ontario.

Jenna will be joining The CWC Project at the Festival Pontiac Enchanté in Luskville, Québec and St. Alban's Church in Ottawa, Ontario

Matthew Li - Piano

Vancouver raised pianist Matthew Li is a diverse and adventurous musician who is not afraid of going beyond the conventional repertoire. He has garnered praise and attention for combining intellectual interpretations with explosive virtuosity. Mr. Li is active in both the West and the East coast of Canada, and is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Musical Arts program at the University of Toronto (U of T) and is expected to graduate in the summer of 2018. Mr. Li made his orchestral debut in China with the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra in 2006. He has since performed across Canada and also in United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Austria, China and Hong Kong. In 2015, he was awarded first prize at the U of T annual Doctor of Music Competition for all instruments, and was invited to perform at the Thursdays at Noon recital series. He won the Vancouver Women’s Musical Society bursary competition in early 2016 and was also invited on a separate occasion to perform with the New Westminster Symphony Orchestra on their 101st season. Mr. Li was appointed Associate Instructor in piano at the Indiana University between 2008 and 2010.

Mr. Li has a growing interest in exploring the realm of modernist and contemporary music. He was one of the five pianists chosen by Munich’s BR Musica Viva to participate in the Stockhausen Music Festival and study with Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich. He also joined Mr. Aimard and Ms. Stefanovich studying the music of Olivier Messiaen at the Aldeburgh Festival in the summer of 2016. His rich experiences in summer music festivals in the past include the Mozarteum Sommerakademie, Centre d’Arts Orford, and the Casalmaggiore International Music Festival, where he studied with Leon Fleisher, Robert Levin, Lee Kum Sing, Jacques Rouvier, Arie Vardi, and Menahem Pressler.

Matthew Li holds a Master of Music degree from Indiana University and Artist Diploma from the Glenn Gould School. He has been under the tutelage of Marietta Orlov since 2010. His past teachers include Sheila Hardy, Sara Davis Buechner, Arnaldo Cohen, and the last protégé of Nadia Boulanger: Emile Naoumoff.

Matthew will join the CWC Project for performances in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia.

Jenny Griffioen - Piano

Jenny Griffioen is a pianist and teacher based in St. John’s, Newfoundland. As a performer, she thrives on collaborative work. She plays regularly with musicians at all levels, accompanying young Suzuki string students, playing for university music students, and performing with professional musicians. She is also involved in church music at St. David’s Presbyterian. As a teacher, Jenny maintains a small private studio of young pianists, and enjoys teaching group classes for adults.


Originally from Guelph, Ontario, Jenny moved to St. John’s to study music at Memorial University. She earned a Bachelor of Music degree with a major in piano performance and a minor in composition, and is now pursuing a Master’s in piano performance and pedagogy. Her teachers are Kristina Szutor and Tim Steeves. 

Jenny will join The CWC Project for performances in Newfoundland and New Brunswick.

Sandra Kerr - Piano

Sandra Kerr is a teacher of piano and theory, a church organist, and an accompanist for many and varied soloists and choirs. She holds an MA in music theory, a B.Mus. in pipe organ performance, and an ARCT in piano performance. She recently presented a short recital of chorale preludes in conjunction with a Hymn Festival at Christ Lutheran Church, one of the events celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.


In addition to maintaining a busy teaching studio, Sandra is currently one of the studio accompanists for vocal teacher Diana Woolrich and is currently organist for St. Luke’s Anglican Church. She also serves as Provincial Registrar/Secretary/Treasurer of the Saskatchewan Registered Music Teachers' Association (SRMTA) and had previously served on the executive of SRMTA. She also served on the executive of the Regina branch of SRMTA and is doing so once again, assisting as interim co-president.


Sandra will join The CWC Project for a performance at St. Mary's Church in Regina, Saskatchewan 

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