Donna Bennett, CMAdvancement & Marketing Director - Westben Centre for Connection & Creativity
Donna's Story :
I grew up just outside the small town of Campbellford and spent most of my youth itching to get to the city.
In Grade 6 one of my teachers handed me a guitar and taught me some chords. I was instantly in love with the guitar as I had always loved singing and came from a musical family. I moved schools and I found two more teachers who would play folk songs with me in the halls before school. I started singing around the County and did competitions. In high school I was chosen to sing the lead in a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta and I fell instantly in love with opera, the stage, costumes and the whole production process. I then started private singing lessons with a teacher from the Royal Conservatory in Toronto who happened to have a family farm 10 minutes from my house near Campbellford. She prepared me for U of T where I got a Bachelor of Music degree.
On to Munich, Germany on scholarship for my masters, then back to Canada to sing with the Canadian Opera Company, Opera Atelier and others.
I married my wonderful husband Brian and we set off to London, England to sing at the Royal College Opera School and Brian to continue his studies as a concert pianist. We both finished our studies and started getting professional work in the UK, Germany and Italy. After I won the audition for Christine in Phantom of the Opera in Vienna I found out I was pregnant with our first child. Career wise I decided that opera was my love not musical theatre (although since I’ve done lots of both) so I turned down the contract and we moved back to Campbellford to have our beautiful baby. This was an amazing and best move ever.
We were able to spend time with my dying mother and help my Dad through the next 15 years. We were able to be home a lot with our children. Brian and I got an agent and started performing together for the first time and toured extensively across Canada and parts of the US. We bought my family farm after our second child and co-founded the Westben Concerts at The Barn in the year 2000. We built a brand new timber framed Barn with doors that roll on to the meadow so let the music waft over the meadow of the 50 acre farm. Every summer we hold 30 events of classical, broadway, jazz, folk, fiddle, pop and comedy and have recently developed these really cool Dare to Pair events with wine, food tasting with storytelling and hands on activities. Westben is now a year round Centre for Music.
Both our children are now involved and fingers crossed may continue to follow the dream and create their own dreams. I am so grateful to have raised our children in Campbellford and have a career in music in my hometown.