Co-founder of the Westben Arts Festival Theatre, Canadian soprano Donna Bennett has sung in Canada with the Canadian Opera Company, the Royal Opera, Opera Atelier, Toronto Operetta Theatre, Tafelmusik, Toronto Symphonietta, Orchestra London, Victoria Symphony, and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra.
Having performed in England, Germany, Italy and in the US, she has also toured extensively across Canada with pianist and husband Brian Finley. Donna's discography includes Henze's opera The English Cat and a collection of Mozart Arias and Lieder recorded live at the Olympic Music Festival in Washington, A Christmas of Love & Light, Lullabies for Benjamin, and Love's Old Sweet Songs along with the world premiere recordings of Brian's Rapunzel and Requiem for a Millennium. She has also recorded for CBC, CFMX, KING-FM (Seattle) and the BBC in London.
Favourite performances at Westben include roles ranging from Maria in The Sound of Music, Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar, Delilah in Brian Finley's opera-musical SAMSON, the title role in Rapunzel opposite Michael Burgess, and Linette in The Selfish Giant by Brian and Ken Tizzard. Recently, she also created the role of Alberta in the world premiere of The Auction by John Burge and Eugene Benson and the role of Rose in the world premiere of Brian Finley’s opera, The Pencil Salesman.
Currently acting as Westben's Director of Marketing, Donna also leads the Westben Youth, Teen, and SATB choruses.
Holding a Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, Donna also attained the Meisterklasse Podium from the Musik Hochschule in Munich, Germany working with Reri Grist. Additional studies took her to New York and London where she received a full scholarship to the Royal College Opera School.
Donna has adjudicated Festivals in Ontario and Alberta and was recently appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada alongside her husband Brian Finley for their work with Westben.
Born in Oakville, Ontario, JONATHAN CRAIG began his musical studies on the violin at the age of six. After two years, at the suggestion of his teacher, the viola was added to his studies; a year later he won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in Hamilton.
After completing a Bachelors degree in Music Performance with David Zafer at the University of Toronto, Jonathan received a Masters in Music performance degree with Donald Mcinnes at the University of Southern California. Since then Jonathan has been Principal Violist with the National Ballet Orchestra of Canada, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. A prizewinner at the Lionel Tertis international Viola Competition, Jonathan is sought after as both soloist and chamber musician performing regularly throughout Canada and the United States.
Jonathan is the principal violist with the Toronto Concert Orchestra and the Grand Salon Orchestra. He is also on faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Music's Community School, the Glenn Gould School and teaches grade 6,7 and 8 strings at the People's Christian Academy. Jonathan has been an orchestra member of most of the hit Broadway musicals in Toronto including, Les Miserable, The Lion King, The Lord or the Rings and The Sound of Music.
Cam Oates has been a certified teacher since 2008. He has built his career working with youth in the dramatic community since 2001, and has worked as a youth facilitator and mentor since 1997.
Currently, he teaches Drama at Mitchell District High School. He is involved in producing and directing a Theatre For Young Audience piece known as The Eco Squad, which he wrote. It will tour across Huron Perth to 14 elementary schools in the spring. He is also working with the high school on producing The Reduced Shakespeare Company's Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and working to host a high school event called I Heart Shakespeare with local high schools.
Cam’s acting credits include: Twelfth Night (Orsino), Seussical the Musical (Cat), HMS Pinafore (chorus), Aida (chorus), Guys and Dolls (Sky), West Side Story (Snow Boy), Much Ado About Nothing (Borachio, understudy Leonato), and various roles throughout his years in university and high school.
His directing credentials include productions such as Bard on the Bay; Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, The Music Man, Annie, Greece, Pullman Car Hiawatha, A Typically Atypical Day, Still Alarm, as well as countless small productions during his years as a secondary school teacher.
Additionally, Cam was the recipient of an award for Excellence in Education from his school board during his 5th year of teaching.
An experienced dancer, he was the Musical Theatre Dance Instructor at the DanceRoom in Stayner. Cam also spent three years as the director and choreographer of a Glee Club as well as four years as a member of the Windsor Dance Experience.
As a part of the Stratford Festival Education Department Cam has had extensive exposure and training, becoming proficient in the areas of script analysis, stage combat, voice, movement, scene study, classical study, and dance.
A leader in communal initiatives, Cam had developed a reputation as a Theatrical Educator and promoter within the Stratford community and the Collingwood community.
When Cam relocated to Collingwood he choreographed and was assistant director of Collingwood Collegiate Institute’s production of Annie and The Wizard of Oz.
Cam ran the Youth Acting program for Theatre Collingwood, has directed Dean Holin's Musical Theatre summer camp, and ran the Hike on Haunted Hill for Blue Mountain Resort each for 3 years.
Cam is deeply passionate about the Performance Arts and believes they are wonderful outlet for expression and personal growth. He primarily works with youth as a director and producer, but loves to be involved in all aspects of theatre and performance and actively pursues opportunities to act, sing, and dance.
Described as a “thoughtful and immensely exciting performer” with “scintillating technique” (Barrie Examiner), pianist Benjamin Smith has performed as soloist and chamber musician across both Canada and the United States. He has been a laureate of numerous competitions, including the Dublin International Piano Competition, the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition, and the CMC Stepping Stone Competition. Guest appearances include the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, the New Juilliard Ensemble, the Ontario Philharmonic, Orchestra London, Symphony-on-the-Bay, the Windsor Symphony, and the University of Toronto’s Hart House Orchestra. As soloist, he has performed under esteemed conductors such as Rossen Milanov and Marco Parisotto, with concertos including rarities such as the Schoenberg Piano Concerto. Festival appearances include Toronto Summer Music, Banff Summer Arts, Stratford Summer Music, Colours of Music, New Park (Ithaca, NY) and Music Niagara. American performances include recitals for the Texas Chopin Society and Chicago’s Landowska Harpsichord Society. Recent highlights have included Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue in Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, as well as multiple recitals with acclaimed violinist Martin Beaver. Current releases on disc include Saint-Saens, Schumann, and Beethoven with Canadian cellist Dongkyun An, as well as an album of newly-commissioned chamber works featuring Native flutes with Toronto’s Grammy-nominated virtuoso Ron Korb.
Devoting considerable time to chamber music, Ben has been heard nationally in Canada on CBC Radio 2 and Toronto’s Classical 96.3. He has partnered in recital with renowned artists including Colin Carr, Jacques Israelievitch, Joaquin Valdepeñas, Wolfgang Redik (formerly of the Vienna Piano Trio), Bartosz Bryla, Oystein Baadsvik, and William VerMeulen, as well as with ensembles such as the Annex and Cecilia string quartets. For two seasons he performed as one-third of the Israelievitch-Smith-Ahn piano trio. Involved with music of our time as well, he is a regular member of the Esprit Orchestra in Toronto, and has worked under prominent conductors Joel Sachs, Steven Schick, and Werner Herbers, as well as with composers John Corigliano, Reinaldo Moya, and Chandler Carter.
Dr. Smith currently resides in Toronto, working as a lecturer, coach, and collaborator for the Glenn Gould School (GGS) and the Taylor Young Artist Academy at the Royal Conservatory. Previously, he held a position on the piano faculty at the University of Western Ontario, and has also served as an undergraduate piano instructor for the Department of Music at Stony Brook University. His principal teachers included Andrea Battista, James Anagnoson, Julian Martin, and Christina Dahl. Along with a DMA from Stony Brook University, he holds a Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto, an Artist Diploma from the GGS, and a Masters from The Juilliard School.