March 19, 2021

Two Music Students Awarded Oscar Peterson Entrance Scholarships

We are proud to announce two new recipients of the Oscar Peterson Entrance Scholarship. This most valuable and prestigious award in the Music Department is the result of a generous gift from the Government of Ontario in the memory of Oscar Peterson. To be eligible for these scholarships, candidates must demonstrate exceptional musical ability (especially in the field of jazz performance), and face social, economic or personal barriers that could otherwise inhibit their ability to pursue a university degree.

The two recipients are Phillaine Downer, a baritone saxophonist, and Ryan MacDonald, a drummer, guitarist and DJ.

Phillaine Downer plays the sax on stage
Phillaine Downer

“I am so honoured to have received such an esteemed distinction.” said Downer “I have to thank God first as well as the support from my parents and peers constantly encouraging me to hone and take pride in my talent. Thank you also to my middle and high school music teachers because their passion for music fueled my own and pushed me to be where I am today. This award is proof that with dedication and hard work, one can definitely reap what they sow and I will continue to press forward and harder to prove that anyone can achieve the unachievable.”

Ryan MacDonald plays the drums
Ryan MacDonald

Ryan MacDonald also felt inspired by this recognition. “It is a proud and humbling moment but also serves as motivation for me to push myself to achieve my greatest potential.” he said, “I feel incredibly relieved to be able to continue my education without as many financial stresses. I would like to thank the music faculty at York University, my friends and family for their encouragement and support in my journey. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Oscar Peterson taught in the York Unviersity Jazz program during the 80s and 90s, and served as Chancellor of York University from 1991-94. These scholarships are a tribute Peterson’s legacy as a musician and educator and as a torchbearer for Canadian Jazz tradition. They reflect the importance of music education, in particular jazz education, and help open the doors to students who might not otherwise be able to pursue their passion and take their studies to the next level.

We’re excited to follow Phillaine and Ryan on their journeys as musicians. Congratulations!