Open Access: the adjudication process

Featured Story: Music Creation and Audio Recording Jury

March, 2017

Portrait of hip hop artist Tona
Hip hop artist Tona Tencreddi
The 2016 round of the Music Creation and Audio Recording program was extremely competitive. The jury approved a total of 98 applications and distributed $590,000 in grants (328 applications were submitted, with nearly $2.2 million requested).  This was the highest number of applications the program has ever received.

Deciding what to fund is not an easy task. This is both the burden and the reward of the jury, a selected group of independent practicing artists and arts professionals who are called upon to provide their expertise in service of their community. When forming a jury, Grants Officers make sure that jurors are representative of Toronto’s arts community, ensuring that there is a balance of gender, cultural background, and stage of career. Individuals are also selected to reflect the art genres of applications received.

“We had an experienced group of musicians, engineers, composers, song writers and producers from all walks of life. Every genre of music was accounted for. There were even times we leaned on each other for enlightenment; if there happened to be that rare occasion when somebody was not as up to speed - in hip hop for example - my job was to fill that void with backstory and detailed accounts of my knowledge,” explains Kwame Nantwi, aka Tona Tencreddi, a hip hop artist, and one of five individuals asked to serve on the 2016 Music Creation and Audio Recording jury. 

Tona has had an accomplished career to date, which made him a great addition to the jury, selected by TAC’s Music Officer Christy DiFelice. Tona began rapping at the age of 9 and has since released 6 albums, received a Stylus Award for Best Rap Video for his 2012 song “We Do,” was the recipient of a Juno award for “Best Rap Recording” in 2015, and has shared the stage with the likes of Nas, Redman & Method Man, Kardinal Offishall, and Talib Kweli.

The amount of time a jury takes to adjudicate is determined by the number of applications; adjudications for the 2016 Music Creation and Audio Recording program lasted for six days, which Tona called a “life altering experience,” explaining that interacting with the other jurors for that long and in such an intimate setting led them to become a “musical family.”

Jurors are asked to review and score applications before everyone meets. TAC’s online application system, TAC Grants Online helps facilitate the process by giving jurors full access to the applications, including support material such as recordings and images. Before TAC Grants Online existed, jurors received large packages of paper applications in the mail, and support material was only reviewed during adjudications.

Discussing the applications as a group gives jurors a more rounded understanding of the work, and provides the opportunity to reconsider their initial scores. “Choosing the recipients was challenging because of how much talent we came across. Every single thing became debatable at that point,” notes Tona. But what’s challenging is also rewarding for him. “The talent always excites me, knowing there’s an unlimited amount of it spread out across the city.”

The budget for the 2016 Music Creation and Audio Recording only allowed for 98 applicants to receive grants. The jury would have funded more. When reflecting on his own career, Tona offers a perspective that can be beneficial to all grant applicants: “[My music career has] been one hell of a journey. The run is definitely not a sprint but a marathon, and is not for the weak hearted. I’ve learned from an early age to embrace all of the closed doors and roadblocks, and turn that into motivation. I still have a lot to prove to myself with my artistry as well as the world.” Perfecting one’s art is a life-long process. Submitting grant applications is part of the journey; there may be roadblocks, and there may be victories. Everything is a learning opportunity.

To learn more about Tona and his music, visit:

Did you know…

  • Grants Officers facilitate adjudications, but do not take part in deciding who gets a grant. It is the jury’s job to make granting recommendations.
  • Grant recommendations are approved by TAC’s Board of Directors.
  • When selecting jurors, Officers ensure that no juror has a direct conflict of interest with any application. All jurors are asked to declare any conflicts of interest before being selected for adjudication.
  • The jury makes artistic assessments based on the artistic merit of the proposed project or work, and the strength of the applicant’s artistic goals and objectives, among other things. Full assessment criteria is outlined in the Program Guidelines for each program.    
  • If an applicant does not receive full funding for their project, a jury may decide to award partial funding.
  • Jurors are paid for their time.
  • The conversations that happen during adjudications are confidential.
  • No two juries are ever the same. Different groups of individuals are assembled for each granting round.
  • The grants assessment process is often called the “peer review process” as grants are adjudicated by practicing artists and professionals.
  • Grant programs are extremely competitive. If you don’t receive a grant the first time you apply, try again!