Meet our 2024 Adjudicators

Claire Devlin

Claire Devlin is a Montreal-based saxophonist and composer. Since 2016 Claire has led her own group, the Claire Devlin Quartet, and in 2020 she released her debut album, “Anyone”. Claire is a member of several ensembles, including the Canadian National Jazz Orchestra, the Sarah Rossy Chamber Ensemble, the Plastic Waste Band, Bellbird, and Jean-Michel Leblanc’s Variétés Narratives, and she performs regularly with the Orchestre national de jazz de Montréal, Rommel Ribeiro, Thus Owls, and the Equal Jazz Orchestra. 

Claire grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, and started playing saxophone at the age of 12. In 2012, she was the recipient of the Rising Young Star award at the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival. Soon after, she moved to Montreal to study music at McGill University. Claire attended the Banff Jazz & Creative Music Workshop in 2017 where she met and studied with several renowned musicians including Vijay Iyer, Linda Oh, Tyshawn Sorey, Jen Shyu, and Stephan Crump. In 2020, Claire received a master’s degree in Jazz Performance and Composition at McGill University. In the nine years since moving to Montreal, Claire has performed with many accomplished musicians such as John Hollenbeck, Christine Jensen, Linda Oh, Jean-Michel Pilc, Okkyung Lee, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Jen Shyu, Anna Webber, and Matt Mitchell. 

Sara Gazarek

Born and raised in Seattle, WA, 3x GRAMMY® nominated jazz vocalist Sara Gazarek reigns as one of the most creative voices of her generation, and one “who may well turn out to be the next important jazz singer” (Los Angeles Times). Collaborating with jazz legends Fred Hersch, Billy Childs, Kurt Elling, and more, and with 6 critically-acclaimed albums under her belt at the age of 40, Gazarek often tours internationally as a solo/band leader, and as a co-founder of the all-female vocal quartet säje, whose debut single earned a 2021 GRAMMY® nomination. Sara also serves on the LA Chapter Board of Governors for the Recording Academy, and works as an adjunct faculty member at her alma mater, USC.

Kelsley Grant

Trombonist, educator and composer Kelsley Grant, received his Bachelor of Music from McGill University and completed his graduate studies at Manhattan School of Music. Shortly after leaving New York, he joined Maynard Fergusonʼs Big Bop Nouveau and toured the United States, Germany, Switzerland and England. Kelsley has been twice nominated for trombonist of the year by the National Jazz Awards. Kelsley has served as a faculty member at McGill University, University of Montreal, and University of Toronto. He has given master classes and clinics at universities across Canada and is currently a full-time faculty member at Humber College

Joanna Majoko

Toronto-based vocalist, composer, and bandleader has established a reputation as one of Canada’s most exciting young singers. Joanna Majoko has been a regular presence on the bandstand with some of the country’s top musicians, including Larnell Lewis, of Snarky Puppy, Grammy-nominated artist/drummer, Ulysess Owens Jr., multi-Juno award winner & Grammy- nominated jazz luminary, Jane Bunnett, Juno/Grammy-award winner & Canadian Hall of Fame inductee, David Clayton-Thomas. She has performed at some of the world’s biggest festivals & venues, such as New York City’s Birdland Jazz Club, Paris’ Le Duc Des Lombards, and Switzerland’s Internationales Jazz Festival Bern. Majoko has also been the recipient of a number of notable accolades, including Emerging Jazz Artist at the 2021 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards, Jazz Artist of the Year at the 2019 ByBlacks People’s Choice Awards, major grants from the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council, and FACTOR. In 2021, she added another important entry to her list of accomplishments: the release of her debut EP, No Holding Back.

Brittany Mielnichuk

Brittany Mielnichuk (she/her) is an arts and administrative professional based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. She has dedicated much of her life to the choral community across Canada, and has a myriad of choral conducting, music education, vocal, and administrative experience. 

As the Artistic Director of Winnipeg’s 2SLGBTQIA+ choral community Rainbow Harmony Project, Brittany is dedicated to using music and song to build community and inspire social change. Brittany performs at local venues and currently sings with the Winnipeg ensembles Canzona and Dead of Winter, in addition to teaching private music lessons and facilitating choral workshops. 

Brittany completed a Master of Music in Choral Conducting at the University of Manitoba with Dr. Elroy Friesen. She also holds a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies from Capilano University (Vancouver, BC) and a Diploma in Professional Music from Southwestern Community College (Creston, IO).

Rob Monson

Rob Monson currently teaches choral and instrumental music at Glenlawn Collegiate. Over the past 30 years he has had the privilege to sing and direct with many choirs and bands throughout the province. He has conducted workshops for the Central, Eastern and Western Manitoba Choral Associations, as well as numerous school divisions across Manitoba. In 2008 he was the director of the Provincial Honour Choir and conducted the Manitoba Junior Honour band in 2014.  As a tuba player, Rob has performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Winnipeg Wind Ensemble and the Winnipeg Brass Quintet.

Rob is passionate about making music and how it brings people together. He firmly believes that: “Music offers a phenomenon wherein may be expressed the highest feelings to which humanity has arisen. The destiny of music education is to teach us to love this great force not merely as an ornament, but for its ennobling energy, for its power of making us better by arousing within each individual a perception of what is good, just and beautiful.”

Rob is excited and honoured to be a clinician at this wonderful festival.

Jason Palmer

Trumpeter | Composer | Educator Jason Palmer has performed with Roy Haynes, Wynton Marsalis and the LCJO, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Maria Schneider, Ravi Coltrane, Mark Turner, Grace Kelly, Allison Miller, Lee Konitz, Phil Woods, Common, Roy Hargrove, Lewis Nash, etc. He has 16 albums as a leader and has performed on over 100 reocordings as a sideperson. Jason has toured in over 40 countries and is a professor at Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory of Music, as well as a visiting artist at Arizona State University. Jason has received multiple grants/commissions/fellowships in composition from FAJE, Boston City Council and Mass Cultural Council, etc. He also starred in the movie Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, LaLa Land).

Anna Penno

Anna Penno is a music educator at Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School (CPN music) in Brandon, MB, where she teaches grades 9 to 12 concert and jazz ensembles and conducts the Brandon Community Band. Anna is a proud Brandon University alumni, having received her undergraduate degree in Music Education from BU. During her time at BU, Anna was fortunate to study saxophone with Greg Gatien and conducting with Dr. Wendy Zander-McCallum. Anna also holds a Master’s of Music Education degree from Michigan State University. While at MSU, with the guidance of Dr. Cynthia Taggart, Anna conducted research in jazz pedagogy and gender studies. Anna looks forward to opportunities to collaborate with students and educators through her involvement in music camps, festivals, and opportunities to adjudicate. Highlights include opportunities to teach jazz saxophone at the International Music Camp, guest conduct the Norman/Parkland Intermediate Honour Band and the Manitoba Junior Honour Jazz Band, adjudicate at the Manitoba Band Association Level One Band Festival, as well as present at the Da Capo Music Education Conference. Anna is thrilled to be a member of the Westman music education community.  

Cynthia Peyson Wahl

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Cynthia Peyson Wahl holds a Bachelor of Music Education (University of Regina), a diploma in Contemporary Music, Jazz Voice (Grant MacEwan University), and a Master of Music Education (University of Toronto). For fourteen years she taught choir, vocal jazz, and musical theatre at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and directed the jazz choir at Canadian Mennonite University. She currently teaches for Regina Public schools, and Secondary Choral Education at the University of Regina in Regina, Saskatchewan.  

At DMCI her choirs were featured performers at Choralfest Manitoba, the ChoralCanada Podium conference, and the Canadian Rocky Mountain Festival in Banff. In 2011 and 2012, her choirs won the Earl Grey Trophy for Outstanding performance by a choir at the Winnipeg Music Festival, and in 2011, her Chamber Choir won the Lieutenant Governor’s Trophy for most outstanding performance of the Winnipeg Music Festival.  

Cynthia is the recipient of numerous scholarships and awards for choral excellence, and is published in two books – The Palgrave Handbook on Race and the Arts in Education, and Teaching Music Through Performance in Choir, vol. 5. Cynthia enjoys a busy schedule as a clinician/workshop presenter, regularly travelling across Canada and the US to work with choirs of all genres. She is currently completing her PhD in music education at the University of Toronto. 

Samuel Torjman Thomas

Dr. Torjman Thomas is a multi-instrumentalist (saxophone, oud, nay), vocalist (Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish), and founder and artistic director of ASEFA and the New York Andalus Ensemble. Dr. Torjman Thomas performs musics of North Africa, the Middle East, and Global Jazz. His scholarship centers on musics of the Middle East and North Africa, worldwide Jewish musics, and jazz-based traditions. He teaches ethnomusicology and Sephardic Studies at City University of New York, focusing on American popular musics, jazz histories, contemporary global jazz, madam-based musics, and Judeo-Islamic intersections in theology, philosophy, and poetics. He is a frequent guest speaker facilitator in ecumenical spaces, cultural institutions, and music and spiritual retreats worldwide, specializing in the Jewish-Muslim interethnic relations and expressive cultures, and is also the Director of Musical Arts at the Sephardic Community Center.

Rachel Therrien 

Working between New York City and Montreal, French-Canadian trumpeter, composer and producer Rachel Therrien boasts an enviable curriculum. Known for her very personal signature with influences from jazz to afro-latin and “global” music, Rachel has developed a reputation as a highly-skilled, versatile and innovative artist. 

After producing 4 records on labels MultipleChordMusic (CA) & Truth Revolution Records (US), Rachel Therrien just released her 5th album, “VENA” (Nominee for Jazz Album of the Year at ADISQ and JUNO Award & four stars by Downbeat), under French Label Bonsaï Music, recorded in Paris with her new European Quartet and she is releasing her 6th album Mi Hogar, the 1st of her Latin Jazz Project in February 2023. 

She also tours both her last projects: Vena (2020) with her european quartet, Why Don’t You Try, (2017) praised by Downbeat’s Editor’s Pick with her Montreal Quintet – which will celebrate their 10th anniversary in 2020,  her New York based Latin Jazz Quartet and very occasionally, performs her past album Pensamiento : Proyecto Colombia, 2016. 

Therrien also works as a side musician in various projects such as Arturo O’Farrill’s Grammy winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, the The Ostara Project, spear-headed by award-winning jazz musicians Jodi Proznick and Amanda Tosoff, only to name a few, the renowned Diva Jazz Orchestra, NYC based People of Earth, and many more. In 2020, Rachel started producing for other artists and is currently working with Noéi Lira and LaPelúda. Be on the lookout for these new albums. 

Kathie Van Lare

Kathie Van Lare, born and raised in Calgary, has been teaching music in the Calgary area for 35 years. Now retired from full-time teaching, Kathie continues to direct the Foothills Music Society Concert Band and the Westwinds Music Society Gold Jazz South Big Band.

She is active as a guest conductor and adjudicator throughout much of Western Canada and has also served on faculty with MusiCamrose and the Calgary Regional Summer Band Workshop. Kathie is currently Co-President of Women Band Directors International – Alberta Chapter and is also Director of the newly formed Calgary Women’s Jazz Orchestra.

Bands under Kathie’s direction have been the recipients of several awards and she has been the recipient of various personal awards:  Alberta Band Association’s “Elkhorn Award” as the Band Director of the Year; Alberta Band Association’s “Vondis Miller Legacy Award”; Laureate in John Philip Sousa Legion of Honor at the MidWest Band and Orchestra Conference in Chicago.  Women Band Directors International, “Scroll of Excellence”; and an Honorary Lifetime Membership from the Alberta Band Association. 

Kathie continues to be active as a free-lance musician (trumpet) and has performed with many groups including among others, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra, Prime Time Big Band, Calgary Jazz Orchestra, Alberta Winds and Altius Brass.

Besides music, Kathie enjoys woodworking, horseback riding and is an avid baseball fan.  Go Cardinals!