Wednesday, September 28, 2022

NSTT: Behind the Scenes

The Nova Scotia Talent Trust is a small-but-mighty organization that has supported over 1000 emerging artists to pursue their dreams in music, dance, literary arts, visual arts, theatre, and film.  Each year we receive hundreds of applications and award thousands of dollars in scholarships and special awards to the applicants who show the most potential in their respective disciplines.  But how does it all work?

Let’s start at the beginning:

How the Talent Trust began…

In 1944, members of the Halifax Ladies Club, along with voice teacher Dr. Ernesto Vinci, successfully advocated the city of Halifax and the province of Nova Scotia to provide financial support for vocalist Portia White to pursue studies in New York. Portia ascended to become one of the best singers of the 20th century. The province recognized the difference their support made in Portia White’s career and founded the Nova Scotia Talent Trust on May 2, 1944, to help other deserving and talented Nova Scotians succeed.

NSTT's first directors included provincial and municipal government representatives and its initial source of funds was a grant from the Province of Nova Scotia.  In 1994, the Talent Trust was restructured to include the Scholarship Selection Committee, an arm’s length group that would review the applications and disperse the scholarships. In 2002, the Board decided to appoint a Chair from the community.  Timothy C. Matthews was elected as the Board Chair, and now serves as Honourary Lifetime Director of Nova Scotia Talent Trust and Chair of the NSTT Foundation. The Talent Trust became fully independent and opened its own office in 2010.

Where does the scholarship and special award money come from?

The partnership between the Talent Trust and the government – specifically, Arts Nova Scotia – allows NSTT to direct nearly all financial resources to scholarships.  Arts NS covers NSTT’s administration expenses and contributes to the scholarship program.

Named Scholarships

The Arts Endowment Fund Scholarships are funded by the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council.  These five scholarships are $2,000 each.

The CN Community Fund Scholarship established this scholarship in 2021 with a grant of $25,000 that was invested in the NSTT Foundation.  This investment will fund the $1,000 annual named scholarship in perpetuity.

The Curtis Botham Scholarship is a one-time, $1,000 scholarship that was generously donated by visual artist and past Talent Trust recipient, Curtis Botham.

General Scholarships

In 2022, the Talent Trust awarded $59,000 in scholarships in addition to the named scholarships noted above.  This amount can vary year to year and is funded through several sources:

- Individual donations and community fundraisers: 39%

- Arts NS: 29%

- Foundations and corporate donations: 27% 

- NSTT Foundation: 5%

Special Awards

The 2011 Canada Games Young Artist of Excellence Awards were established in 2012 by the 2011 Canada Games Legacy Fund Committee.  This award of $10,000 was to be given to two recipients annually for 10 years.  2022 will be the final year for this award.  

Some of the special awards such as the RBC Emerging Artist / BIPOC Emerging Artist Award, Theatre NS Award, and Portia White Award are funded on an annual basis.  Other special awards, such as the Charlotte Wilson-Hammond/VANS Award, Kenneth Elloway Award, and Raymond Simpson Award are established with a donation and topped up annually by friends and family of the original donor.  The rest of the special awards such as the Shelagh MacKenzie Award and James Burchill Award are established with an investment to the NSTT Foundation.  The dividends of that investment funds the annual award in perpetuity. 


How are the scholarship and special award recipients chosen?

The Scholarship Selection Committee

The SSC is an arm’s length, volunteer group that is comprised of 12 professional artists from the disciplines of Music, Dance, Theatre, Film, Visual Arts, and Literary Arts.  Each member serves a 2-year term.

The SSC meets three times a year: twice to review scholarship applications, and once to determine the special awards recipients.

Once the applications have been submitted, the SSC members begin reviewing them independently using a scoring system.  Each member comes prepared to the meeting with a score and feedback for each applicant in their discipline. The applications are then reviewed again at the meeting and the SSC engages in collaborative discussion about each submission until a final score is agreed upon.

Dispersing the Funds

The Scholarship Selection Committee starts with the highest-scoring applicants and decides the amount of scholarship funding for each.  They do this by reviewing the applicant’s funding request and budget provided in the application.  Each year the funding requests far exceed the amount the Talent Trust has available, so the SSC members strive to allocate scholarship amounts that will make an impact in the artists’ studies.  The scholarship recipients are announced each September.

Special Award Selection

The Scholarship Selection Committee again reviews the applications of the scholarship recipients.  They are given a list of the available special awards and eligibility criteria for each.  The SSC then has a discussion to determine the recipient of each award, led by the SSC members representing the discipline for that particular award.  The recipients are announced at the Special Awards Ceremony each December.


What happens after someone wins a scholarship?

Emerging artists who have not completed their studies are welcome to apply again each year.  Once an artist completes their studies and/or becomes a professional artist, they become Talent Trust Alumni!  While they are no longer eligible to apply for a scholarship, the Talent Trust will continue to support and promote all past recipients.  Many past recipients stay involved with the Talent Trust by joining the Board, helping to fundraise, volunteering at live events, or being involved with special projects like our blog or Artist Spotlight.


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Thursday, September 22, 2022

The NS Talent Trust Continues to Invest in Aspiring Nova Scotian Artists

Meet the 2022 Talent Trust Scholarship Recipients 

Having completed the scholarship selection process for 2022, the NS Talent Trust has awarded scholarships to 45 emerging Nova Scotian artists from all over the province who are pursuing studies in Dance, Music, Theatre, Film, Literary Arts, and Visual Arts.
This year's Talent Trust recipients come from Glace Bay, Guysborough, Head of Chezzetcook, Wellington, Fall River, Windsor Junction, Wolfville, Shelburne, Hammonds Plains, Cape Breton, Lyons Brook, Gatineau, Mount Uniacke, Middle and Lower Sackville,
 as well as Bedford, Dartmouth and Halifax.  It is incredible to see aspiring artists hailing from so many Nova Scotian communities.  Many will begin their artistic journeys in schools and programs all around the world, from Winnipeg to Lunenburg to Switzerland. Whatever path they choose, this year's scholarship recipients represent the very best of Nova Scotia's talent.

Beginning with the very first scholarship recipient, Portia White, NSTT scholarship recipients consistently promote and enhance the Arts & Culture sector in Nova Scotia.  With the support of the NSTT, they have the opportunity to perfect their craft with some of the best mentors and programs the world has to offer.  Just as Portia White built a successful career and long-lasting legacy, many other Talent Trust recipients have gone on to do the same - artists like Sandra Brownlee, Breagh Isabel, Brettan Hannam, and Walter Borden.  With over $2.5 million in scholarships to more than 1000 artists since 1944, there are endless stories of incredible creativity, perseverance, and success among the Talent Trust alumni.

Our scholarship recipients are chosen through a thorough and collaborative process by the Scholarship Selection Committee.   This Committee functions independently and is comprised of twelve professional artists representing the six disciplines of Music, Dance, Film, Theatre, Literary Arts, and Visual Arts. The Committee members volunteer their time and expertise to review applications, provide the recipients with meaningful feedback, and name the scholarship recipients based on their skill, dedication and potential.  It is with sincere gratitude to the Scholarship Selection Committee members that we present this year's scholarship recipients.
This year's 63 successful scholarships were chosen from a field of 106 applications over two submission periods ending March 1st and May 1st 2022.

Five scholarships of $2000 each are supported by the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council Nova Scotia Arts Endowment Fund.  This year's recipients are Kaya Panthier, Emily O'Leary, Caroline McKeen, Aidan Vaudreuil, and Hope Salmonson. 

The CN Halifax Community Fund Scholarship
 was established in 2021 by the CN Halifax Community Board.  This $1,000 scholarship goes to Jeremy Hull.

The Curtis Botham Scholarship of $1000 was generously provided by Curtis Botham, past Talent Trust scholarship recipient and winner of the Canada Games Award (2018) and Charlotte Wilson-Hammond/VANS Award (2017).  The recipient of this scholarship is Ada Denil.

Together with our generous donors, sponsors, and supporters, the Talent Trust was able to award $71,000 in scholarships in 2022.  Our sincere thanks go to Arts Nova Scotia, the RBC Foundation, the CN Halifax Community Board, the Craig FoundationCurtis Botham, and our community who have made it possible to provide support to these gifted artists when they need it the most.  

Below is the complete list of the 2022 Nova Scotia Talent Trust scholarship recipients.

 Media Contact: 
 Andrea Urquhart, Executive Director 
 Nova Scotia Talent Trust 
 (902) 492 6801 
About the NSTT
Since 1944, the NS Talent Trust has provided more than $2.5 million in scholarships and special awards to over 1,000 Nova Scotians pursuing careers in the disciplines of Music, Dance, Film, Theatre, Literary Arts, and Visual Arts.  It is the only organization of its kind in the country.

Nova Scotia Talent Trust Scholarship Recipients 2022


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Wednesday, September 14, 2022

"Love, Loss and Exile": a recap of SongFest with Abigail Sinclair

Abigail Sinclair received Talent Trust scholarships in 2018, 2020, and 2021.  She also received the Portia White Award in 2020 and the Sheila K Piercey Award in 2021.  She spent her summer in California perfecting her craft as a soprano, and has shared her experiences with us:

 Hi NSTT Community!

My name is Abigail Sinclair and I am a soprano from Halifax. I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Performance from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music where I studied with Elizabeth McDonald. 

Like many musicians at a university level, I auditioned for summer programs this year so that I could continue to study in the Summer months. With the support of the NSTT I was very lucky to attend SongFest, an American Art Song Festival held every June in California! I had previously applied to SongFest in 2020 when it was held in Los Angeles, but the Festival was forced to cancel its in-person programming for 2 years because of Covid. 2022 Marked the return of SongFest in person, and their first year running the festival at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) in beautiful San Francisco.

The most intriguing part of SongFest is that it provides young singers and collaborative pianists the chance to study some of the great classics of song repertoire, while still emphasizing the performance of new art song through its composer mentorship program and opportunities to work with living composers on their music. New music is something I have been very passionate about since I started my studies in Toronto, so SongFest felt like the perfect fit for me! Composers on staff at the festival this year included Jake Heggie, Sheila Silver, John Musto, Libby Larsen, John Harbison and David Conte.

Before the end of classes in April I received a call from Rosemary Ritter, the Artistic Director of SongFest, to let me know that I had been chosen to premiere the 2022 Sorel Commission. Each year through the Sorel Organization, SongFest commissions a new work to be premiered as part of the festival. This year’s piece was “Love, Loss and Exile” for soprano, piano and cello by American Composer Juhi Bansal. The text for this five (5) part song cycle was taken from Landays, which are short anonymous poems passed down orally through generations of women in Afghanistan. Beyond my passion for new work is a personal mandate to work with women composers and highlight women’s experiences through music. The opportunity to work with Juhi on this piece was a treasure beyond words. We were able to zoom a couple times to discuss the piece, what stylistic influences and colours were important to bring through in its performance and create a game plan for rehearsals when we met up in person in San Francisco.

I was also incredibly lucky to be going to SongFest with a small contingent of Canadian singers, some of whom I already knew very well, and others I am pleased to say I formed strong bonds with. Sopranos Alexa Frankian, Sarah Richardson and Emily Rocha had all attended U of T with me (Emily took my headshot!) and Soprano Alyssa Bart joined us from the University of Western Ontario. While there I also got to work with pianist Gina Hyunmin Lee, a fellow East-Coaster from New Brunswick who is currently studying at the Eastman School of Music. In addition to the wonderful Canadian artists and Faculty, I also connected and performed with many young artists from Universities across the United States, and I am so grateful for the friendships we formed.

I was a member of the Young Artist program at SongFest, and had two weekly lessons with Amy Burton who is on faculty at both the Juilliard School and Mannes School of Music. I also received coachings with pianists Jennifer Tung and Javier Arrebola. My sessions with these three Faculty members in particular were exceptionally helpful, and made me feel both supported and inspired. I also thoroughly enjoyed my time working with pianist Mark Trawka, who is the Director of Musical Studies at the Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist Training Program. I later had the chance to perform “Tornami a vagheggiar” with him in a special arias concert featuring Jake Heggie and Frederica von Stade. 

Other highlights included performing an excerpt from Lili Boulanger’s epic cycle “Clairières dans le ciel” with pianist Maeve Berry for American pianist and conductor, Martin Katz. Katz’s uncompromising approach to the study and performance of art song and his reverence for each piece that was presented to him in our masterclasses really resonated with me. Watching him work with other students changed the way I look at my own process and artistry. Performing for him was certainly a high point, and I encourage anyone to check out his masterclasses online.

While Juhi was in town for the premiere we had the chance to meet up and chat as well as rehearse in person with pianist Yu-Hsin Teng, and Cellist Evan Kahn. It is a rare and special thing to meet someone you click with so instantly, but I was overjoyed to discover a fast new friend in Juhi. This made the process of preparing Love Loss and Exile all the more fun and the three of us had a great time working with her and Canadian soprano Martha Guth prior to the premiere at SFCM’s Caroline Hume Recital Hall.

In between performances, we had some time to explore San Francisco. SFCM was situated right across the street from both the Symphony and the Opera House and a 15 minute drive to Ghirardelli Square and the San Francisco waterfront. One evening, the Canadians and I took a stroll along the waterfront and rode the cable car back uptown which was quite an adventure! We also hiked up to Alamo Square park to see the famous “Pink Ladies” houses from the Full House title sequence.

I am so grateful to the NSTT and the musical community in Nova Scotia for making opportunities like this possible for me. I had a wonderful time in San Francisco and learned so much from both the instructors and my peers. Exposure to artists from different backgrounds with preferences and experiences from my own is something I feel is important to my development, and that of any young artist. My time at SongFest provided just that, and I know that I will continue to work with the musicians I met there for many years to come!

Signing off,



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Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Neptune welcomes back Walter Borden for 60th Anniversary

Happy 60th Anniversary to Neptune Theatre!  Neptune's Anniversary Season officially opens this Friday, September 9 with "The Last Epistle of Tightrope Time" starring Walter Borden.  Through the voices of 10 characters, Walter Borden's solo performance reflects on his experience as a Black, gay man facing the challenges of racism, homophobia, and poverty.

Walter was one of the Talent Trust's earliest scholarship recipients who received a scholarship in 1967 for Theatre.  He went on to join Neptune Theatre in 1972 when he played the title role in the production of "Tartuffe" .  He has performed on stages all across Canada many times since. He has also had numerous roles in films and on television. His last Neptune 
production was in 2019 as Selsdon Mowbray in the comedy "Noises Off".

Walter has been a strong voice and a mentor for African Nova Scotian communities.  In the late 1960s, he helped establish Kwaacha House – an interracial teen-oriented, drop-in and social education centre that inspired young Nova Scotians to seek full equality of citizenship and full equality of opportunity for African Nova Scotians.  

For his long and distinguished career in the arts, Walter Borden has received many awards and honours — including the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals and the Portia White Award.  He is a recipient of the Order of Canada and  the African Nova Scotian Music Association’s Music Heritage Award for his mentorship and promotion of two generations of African Nova Scotian musical talent.

For showtimes and tickets to the Anniversary Season opening, click here


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