Our 2020 Adjudicators

Timothy Anderson

Timothy Todd Anderson has been at the University of Massachusetts Amherst since 2011. He is the director of the over 380 member, award-winning Minuteman Marching Band. Dr. Anderson previously served as the Associate Director of Bands at California State University, Fresno for five years. In addition to his marching band responsibilities, Dr. Anderson also directs the Pep Band, the Concert Band, teaches Marching Band Techniques and conducting, and works with student teachers. During the summers, Dr. Anderson is the conductor of the Amherst Community Band. He is a frequent clinician and guest conductor with school band programs throughout New England. Dr. Anderson holds the Bachelor of Music from the University of Iowa, the Master of Music in Wind Conducting from the University of Florida, and the Doctorate of Education in Music Education from the University of Illinois. His career began as an instrumental music teacher in the West Marshall Community School District of State Center, Iowa. Dr. Anderson resides in Amherst, Massachusetts with his wife Jennifer and their cat Gatsby.

Allison Au

Juno-award winning Jazz Saxophonist, Composer and Arranger, Allison Au (pronounced "ow") refuses to be defined. Born to a Chinese father and Jewish mother, and raised in the multicultural metropolis of Toronto, Allison found music as a young child. Exposed to a wide array of musical styles, she was captivated by the unhinged freedom of Jazz. Jazz became Allison’s lab for self-expression, exploration, and musical experimentation. Her work weaves a mosaic of influences into a seamless and soulful sound, a concoction steeped in the tradition of Jazz but skillfully laced with elements of Classical, Pop, R&B/hip hop, Latin, and world music. ​

Au’s music transports you to a place where instrumentals ring bold and emotions run free. Melodies cascade and collide, highlighting Au’s gift for layering voices and rhythms. Her writing showcases the color and character of each instrument, while providing ample room for her band mates to push her compositions to new heights. ​

Au earned her first Juno nomination for her debut album, “The Sky Was Pale Blue, then Grey” in 2013, and in 2016 seized the Juno for "Best Jazz Album of The Year: Group" for “Forest Grove.” In 2019, she garnered another Juno nomination for "Best Jazz Album of the Year: Group" for "Wander Wonder."

Formed in 2009, the Allison Au Quartet has toured extensively in Canada and the US. The group was awarded the TD Jazz Fellowship Scholarship (2011), The Alfred and Phyllis Balm Scholarship (2012), and The Margareta and Benno Nigg Scholarship (2013) for three consecutive artist residencies at the Banff Centre.

The Allison Au Quartet has won the 2017 Montreal Jazz Festival TD Grand Prix de Jazz, received the 2017 Halifax Jazz Festival Sting Ray Rising Star Award, and was named a 2017 Finalist for Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Jazz Artist Award.

Isabelle Brassard-Porter

Isabelle Brassard-Porter has had a long musical career as a performer, conductor and educator. As a professional flutist and piccoloist, she had the chance to perform orchestral masterworks from the post romantic era for thirty-two seasons with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Brassard-Porter was the head of the instrumental music program at the Béatrice-Desloges High School Specialized Arts Program where she conducted numerous ensembles including the Béatrice-Desloges Senior Wind Orchestra which has won the highest honors at numerous festivals in Canada, the United States and Europe. In 2012, MusicFest Canada recognized Ms. Brassard-Porter with the Keith Mann Outstanding Director Award of Excellence. Over the course of her career, Isabelle has inspired countless young people to discover the joy and benefits of making music and is happy to continue this mission at MusicFest Canada .


Interprète, chef d'orchestre et éducatrice sont quelques-uns des rôles assumés par Isabelle Brassard-Porter au cours d'une longue carrière musicale. Flûtiste et piccoliste professionnelle, elle a eu la chance de jouer de grandes oeuvres post-romantiques avec l’Orchestre symphonique d’Ottawa pendant trente-deux saisons. Comme enseignante, Madame Brassard-Porter a été à la tête du programme de musique instrumentale au sein du Programme Spécialisé en Arts de l’École secondaire Béatrice-Desloges. À titre de chef d’orchestre, Isabelle a dirigé de nombreux ensembles dont l’Orchestre à vent senior Béatrice-Desloges qui a remporté les plus hauts honneurs à de nombreux festivals au Canada, aux États-Unis et en Europe. En 2012, MusicFest Canada a reconnu madame Brassard-Porter en lui décernant le prix d’excellence Keith Mann Outstanding Director Award. Au cours de sa carrière, Isabelle a inspiré d’innombrables jeunes à découvrir la joie et les bienfaits de faire de la musique et est heureuse de continuer cette mission à MusicFest Canada.

Jonathan Dagenais

Jonathan Dagenais holds a Master’s degree in Conducting from McGill Universityand a Bachelor’s degree in Composition from the Universite de Montreal.

In addition to teaching at CEGEP and university, (music theory, composition, ear training, musicianship and conducting), Mr. Dagenais enjoys an active career as a composer and arranger for wind orchestra. His works have been performed repeatedly by numerous Canadian university and high school ensembles. They also appear on several professional recordings. His compositions are found in many North American concert band music festival syllabus and are currently published worldwide.

Jonathan Dagenais is also a sought after conductor. He is the conductor and artistic director of the Orchestre a Vents Non Identifie (OVNI), a Montreal wind orchestra he co-founded in 2005. OVNI is an ensemble dedicated to collaborative and active listening, tone quality, refined interpretation as well as humour. In 2010 and 2017, he was appointed conductor of the McGill McGill WQInd Orchestra. In 2012 he was a guest conductor for the Montreal Pop Symphony Orchestra (OSPM). Jonathan Dagenais is also the conductor of the Cercle Philharmonique de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, a position he has held since September 2012. In September 2015, he was named conductor of the Orchestre de jeux video - OJV (montreal Video Game Orchestra), an ensemble dedicated to video game soundtracks. A longtime fan of video games and their music, this was a natural marriage of two of his passions. Most recently in 2019, he was appointed principal conductor of the Ottawa Pops Orchestra.

Mr. Dagenais has been invited to adjudicate and/or give clinics at more than 25 North American music competitions and festivals. In 2017, he became the artistic director of Musicfest Quebec. Jonathan Dagenais is regularly engaged by Canadian summer music camps to conduct orchestras, bands and chamber ensembles. He has been a guest conductor for many Canadian honour bands. In 2013, Mr. Dagenais was appointed as conductor of The National Youth Band of Canada (NTB), the most prestigious honour band in the country. Jonathan Dagenais is a conductor / clinician / educator for the Twigg Musique Company in Quebec and a Yamaha Canada Master Educational Artist.

Mr. Dagenais is currently a guest lecturer at McGill University.

Daniel Gress

A graduate of the University of Evansville, Daniel Gress was Principal Horn of the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) for 25 years and made several tours with the NACO throughout North America, Europe and the Far East. He was a soloist with the NACO on several occasions and was a frequent participant in its Music for a Sunday Afternoon Series performing with some of the world’s best known chamber music specialists. Prior to coming to Ottawa, Mr. Gress was a student of Philip Farkas at Indiana University was Principal Horn with the NORAD Band in Colorado Springs, Colorado prior to that. Most recently he was Director of Performance Studies, Conductor of the Wind Ensemble and Conductor of the Brass Choir for the University of Ottawa School of Music, an association that began in 1977. He is often called upon as a clinician and as an adjudicator, having appeared in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Colorado, Ontario and Quebec. His former students have held positions in Canada’s finest musical organizations including the NACO, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic and the Canadian Brass.

Tara Davidson

Tara Davidson is a multiple JUNO Award nominated alto and soprano saxophonist who has performed around the world at such prestigious venues as New York City’s Carnegie Hall, the acclaimed North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, the International Jazz Festival in Lima, Peru, the JZ Jazz Club in Shanghai, China, and The Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C.

As a bandleader, Davidson has produced six recordings since 2004 and performed on approximately thirty recordings as a side person. Four of her six recordings as a leader or coleader have been nominated by the JUNO Awards for “Album of the Year” in the “Traditional”, “Solo” and “Group” jazz categories. Her bands have been comprised of various configurations from duo to nonet and have included such personnel as Mike Murley (saxophone), William Carn (trombone), Laila Biali (piano), Kelly Jefferson (saxophone), Andrew Downing (bass and cello), David Braid (piano), and Ernesto Cervini (drums), among many others. Davidson has been associated with five additional JUNO nominations for her work as a sideperson with Andrew Downing’s Otterville, Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop, the Mike Murley Septet, CBC Records’ “Jazz Legends Live” project, and Jens Lindemann’s Order of Canada Band (Yamaha Big Band member).

Some of Davidson’s other honours include being selected as the lead alto saxophonist for the European Broadcasting Union’s “European Youth Jazz Orchestra”, being selected as one of five finalists in the Mary Lou Williams “Women In Jazz” saxophone competition, and being selected as one of three finalists for the Toronto Arts Foundation’s “Emerging Jazz Artist Award” in 2015. In 2013, Davidson was awarded the Ontario Arts Council’s “Chalmers Professional Development Grant” to study with saxophone legend, Dick Oatts, in New York City.

Davidson also enjoys a diverse freelance career as a woodwind player (saxophone, clarinet, and flute) that includes working with musical theatre companies such as the Musical Stage Company (formally Acting Upstage), Soulpepper Theatre Company, and Drayton Entertainment, and with such symphonies as the National Ballet Orchestra and the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony. Studio and performance opportunities have allowed Davidson to perform alongside such artists as Joel Frahm, Shirley Bassey, Oliver Jones, Tommy Banks, Wycliffe Gordon, Emilie-Claire Barlow, Phil Dwyer, Jim McNeely, Ingrid Jenson, Christine Jensen, Brad Turner, Justin Brown, John Riley, Gary Versace, and Jackie Robinson.

Davidson is an active educator. She is on faculty at University of Toronto, York University, the Humber College Community Music School and the National Music Camp of Canada (Jazz Faculty). Davidson has been a guest faculty member for Ottawa’s Jazzworks Jazz Camp, the Interprovincial Music Camp (IMC Jazz Faculty), Saskatoon’s TD Jazz Intensive Workshop, and the Stanford Jazz Workshop.

Tara Davidson is proud to be a Yamaha Artist and plays their Custom Z alto saxophone, Custom CSVR clarinet, and YFL-577 Series flute.

Mark Ferguson

Mark Ferguson is a pianist, trombonist, composer, arranger, producer, and music educator.

He has performed with many of the world’s great artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Gil Evans, Nelson Riddle, Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Tom Jones, Rosemary Clooney, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Gino Vanelli, Rob McConnell & the Boss Brass, Holly Cole, Manteca, The Funk Brothers and the National Arts Centre Orchestra.

Mark is a Faculty Lecturer (jazz, trombone) at McGill University, a Performance Instructor (Jazz Piano/Trombone)/ Sessional Lecturer at Carleton University and is active as a jazz clinician at high schools and universities across Canada.

Sharon Fitzsimmins

Sharon Fitzsimmins, Mus. Bac., B.Ed, is a respected educator, international adjudicator, clinician and conductor. She is past president of The Ontario Music Educators’ Association (OMEA) and was co-editor of The Recorder for 8 years, examiner for The Royal Conservatory of Music and a conductor at the National Music Camp of Canada . She has received numerous teaching, professional development and leadership awards including Teacher of the Year. In November 2006, Sharon received the highest award from the OMEA, an Honorary Life Membership. In Feb. 2019 Sharon also received an Honorary Life Membership from the Ontario Band Association (OBA).Sharon is currently the Chair of the Concert Band Division for MusicFest Canada. Sharon is proud to have taught for thirty years at Barrie North Collegiate where she conducted award winning bands and choirs. She has written three teacher resources and a collection of stories called It Made Me Laugh, It Made Me cry. Stories From the Music Room.


Kevin Hamlin

Recently retired as head of music at Collingwood Collegiate, Kevin Hamlin has been appointed to be Yamaha Music Canada's first Educator-in-Residence, providing workshops and clinics for high school music programs and bands throughout North America. Kevin was awarded the Keith Mann Outstanding Band Director in 2015, awarded to one teacher each year from across the country, chosen by MusicFest Canada. Kevin also presents regularly at numerous music conferences throughout Canada, provides workshops for school boards and universities, and adjudicates at Regional Festivals from Coast to Coast, as well as the MusicFest Canada National Festival. Kevin was also awarded the Collingwood Arts Award in 2015 as well as the Order of Collingwood in 2016.

Dave Neill

Born and raised in Ottawa, saxophonist Dave Neill moved to Toronto in 1995 to pursue a jazz performance degree from the University of Toronto, where he studied with Alex Dean and Mike Murley.

Working as a performer, adjudicator and clinician, Dave is active on the freelance scene, including jobs with Johnny Mathis, Wayne Newton, Frankie Valli, Regis Philbin, Nikki Yanofsky, Kirk MacDonald Jazz Orchestra and he appears on the recently released Alex Dean Big Band recording.

Now a full-time professor at Humber College, Dave is the Academic Advisor and teaches a variety of courses, including Music Business. Furthermore, Dave plays a role mentoring the next generation of performers at the Youth Jazz Canada Summer Jazz Workshop. Previously, he taught at the University of Toronto from 2004-2016, the Humber College Community Music School from 2000-2015 and the IMC Jazz Camp (2000-2018).

Dave completed his Master’s in Jazz Performance at the University of Toronto, and has released two CDs as a leader. His debut quartet CD All In featured his original compositions, while his follow-up CD Daylight was named as one of the top Canadian Jazz CDs of 2014 by Peter Hum of the Ottawa Citizen.

Neil Yorke-Slader

Neil Yorke-Slader taught music at the elementary and secondary levels for 17 years. He has been the director of the nationally-acclaimed Nepean All-City Jazz Band for 32 years, and is active as a jazz adjudicator and clinician throughout North America. Over 50 of his compositions for jazz ensemble are published through University of Northern Colorado Jazz Press and Burnihla Music Publishing; several are preserved by the National Library of Canada (Archives). He has written several commissions, and was one of the eight contributing composers to the inaugural Canadian “New Sounds of Learning Project”. Neil is a member of the International Association of Jazz Composers and Arrangers. In 2017, through a grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage's "Canada 150" fund, he was commissioned to write an arrangement of "O Canada" for jazz ensemble. He was selected as the inaugural winner of the Tommy Banks Most Outstanding Jazz Director Award in 2018, and was a contributor to “Jazz Pedagogy, A Canadian Perspective”.