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Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award


The Colleen Peterson Songwriting Fund was established at the Ontario Arts Council in 2003 to honour Colleen Peterson’s contribution to Canadian folk and country music. The award is designed to support and promote the work of an emerging professional singer/songwriter in the genres of roots, traditional, folk and country music.


  • Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada
  • Resident of Ontario
  • Professional artist
  • Music—singer/songwriter

Selection Procedure

Nominations for the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award are received from the Folk Music Ontario's “Songs from the Heart” competition.

The Ontario Arts Council manages the selection process and assembles the jury that chooses the award recipient.

The OAC awards office does not accept unsolicited nominations for this award.


  • Annual

Award Amount

  • $1,000


A soaring voice, engaging stage presence and proven songwriting talent made Colleen Peterson a lasting presence on the music scene both in Canada and abroad. Her music defied easy classification. She moved freely between country, folk, blues, jazz and pop. In 1968, she won a Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist and in 1977 was named Best New Vocalist. In August 1991, her single "No Pain, No Gain" reached #1 on Canadian country music charts. Peterson began her professional career at 17, touring coffee houses in Canada and the U.S. with Bruce Cockburn, Ken Koblun, David Wiffen, Richard Patterson, Donna Warner, Trevor Veitch and Brent Titcomb, and as a member of Three's A Crowd. She lived and worked in many places including 10 years in Nashville. Peterson eventually returned to Canada, relocating to a farm just north of her birthplace in Peterborough, Ontario.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Peterson was frequently seen on Canadian and American television. She hosted her own series of specials, The Road Show, on CBC and she was a regular on CTV's Spirit of the Country. Over the years, Peterson worked with a remarkable list of musicians, opening for Gordon Lightfoot at Massey Hall in Toronto, singing backup for two years with The Charlie Daniels Band and touring with Tom Waits and Ry Cooder, among others. She also provided studio background vocals for Waylon Jennings, Roger Miller, Janie Fricke and Marty Stuart, to name a few. Anne Murray, Sylvia Tyson and Ronnie Prophet recorded her songs, and she co-wrote others with Nancy Simmonds, Sylvia Tyson and Cyril Rawson.

Colleen's most successful and personally rewarding musical collaboration developed out of a single live appearance at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre in 1993 with Sylvia Tyson, Caitlin Hanford and Cindy Church. The overwhelming response to the Harbourfront concert, radio appearances and a tour, sent the group,Quartette, into the recording studio. Their first album, Quartette, won a Canadian Country Music Award and a Big Country nomination. Their second album, Work of the Heart, was released to critical acclaim in 1995. Then in the summer of 1996, they recorded their third album, It's Christmas! They received the Canadian Country Music Association's award for best vocal collaboration, and in 1995 and 1996 they were nominated for a Juno as best country group. An hour-long television special on CBC's Adrienne Clarkson Presents introduced them to an even wider audience. After a year-long battle with cancer, Colleen Peterson passed away on October 9, 1996 at the age of 45. It's Christmas!, featuring both traditional and new material, was released in November 1996 around the time Peterson would have been celebrating her birthday.