Brian (BMus 1982, MMus 1984): We met in the Faculty of Music – I’m a pianist and she’s a soprano – but it took me four and a half years to convince her to go out with me. I’m a Calgary boy, so maybe she didn’t like my Western cockiness. I stayed on to do a master’s degree, and we really connected when I invited her to the opera in the spring of 1983. A lot of the compositions I have done over the years were written for Donna, and I get a special sense of satisfaction when I hear her singing my music. After marrying in 1985, we founded the Westben Arts Festival Theatre together in Donna’s hometown of Campbellford, Ontario. We built a 5,100-square-foot barn in one of the cornfields, and have held more than 300 concerts; we’re now heading into our 14th season. It’s been absolutely amazing to both find a soulmate and create a music community together. Donna is the song in my heart.
Donna (BMus 1982): When I met Brian, he was quite outgoing and I was small-town shy. But after the first date, I just wanted to be around him. He took me to the Music Gallery and played a Chopin piece about two months after we started dating, and I think that sealed the deal. When I moved to Munich in the fall of 1983 to do a master’s in music, we wrote letters every day and Brian came to visit. After we got married in 1985, I was working for the Canadian Opera Company, and then we went on to work in New York City and London. I started getting all kinds of gigs, even after I got pregnant. It’s quite something to be starring in an opera in Italy while breastfeeding at intermission. We also did several cross-Canada tours together as a duo, and we love performing together. We have two sons: Ben who studies music at U of T, and Adam who studies science at McGill – but his violin is still handy! Music brings people together and it means a lot to share it with my family.
Listen to a sample of Brian Finley and Donna Bennett’s music below.
“Lullaby for Benjamin” by Brian Finley and Donna Bennett