Recognized as a cultural cornerstone in rural Ontario, the Westben Centre for Connection & Creativity through Music is a not-for-profit, charitable arts organization dedicated to bringing people together through music and nature. Established in 1999 by co-founders soprano Donna Bennett and pianist/composer Brian Finley along with an energetic community of supporters, Westben first opened its Barn doors on Canada Day, 2000. Since then, the organization has brought together hundreds of professional and amateur musicians, engaged growing regional audiences, and achieved artistic excellence through the curation of musical experiences of the highest calibre. It has also contributed to community-building and plays an important role in supporting Canadian music, musicians and creators.
Founded on the combination of music, people and place, Westben continues to nurture communities of artists, audiences and learners through exceptional musical experiences which are closely tied to its spectacular setting. Activities include a multi-week professional summer music festival, residencies and a number of year-round performance and learning-based programs. Westben’s principal facility is its custom-built, timber-frame performance Barn situated on a beautiful 50-acre farm near Campbellford, Ontario located two hours east of Toronto. With sides and doors that roll away, the surrounding meadow (with its crickets, birds and bullfrogs) becomes an integral part of the musical experience. In 2021, Westben added two additional out-door venues: Willow Hill, a natural amphitheatre on the side of an old corn field, and The Campfire, an intimate spot nestled close to the meadow. It also began exploring music in the neighbouring Mary West Nature Reserve, and it relocated its year-round facilities to the West Schoolhouse, a historic one-room schoolhouse abutting onto the Westben Farm.
Since inception, Westben has presented over 500 concerts featuring several hundred artists ranging from Angela Hewitt, Gerald Finley and James Ehnes to Oliver Jones, Jeremy Dutcher and Autorickshaw. Over the years, Westben has sold over 100,000 tickets and involved more than 10,000 learners. Typically attracting 10,000 patrons annually, it involves several hundred participants of all ages from an ever-growing geographical reach. It presents an organic array of genres ranging from classical, jazz and folk to world, Indigenous and comedy. It has mounted 14 operas (including 2 world premieres) and 9 musicals (including 5 world premieres), and has produced dozens of off-site events and productions, combining amateur and professional musicians. Recent online development has included the creation and distribution of well over 100 videos, as well as an online versions of its “Concerts at The Barn” and its international Performer-Composer Residency which, in 2021, welcomed 50 participants from 13 countries.
As a noted cultural and tourism destination, Westben received two Ontario Tourism Resiliency Awards for Innovation in 2020. With a solid group tour market as well as partnerships with a vast array of arts organizations, educational institutions, and tourism & hospitality organizations, its vibrant community engagement includes the support of over 20 regular Sponsors, over 250 Members, more than 200 Volunteers and both Provincial and Federal governments. It has received awards for culture, tourism and information technology from the Trent Hills Chamber of Commerce and elsewhere. In 2017, Westben’s co-founders received the Order of Canada for their work through Westben.
July in January 2022
Digital Concerts at The Barn
Nine performances from Westben’s Digital Concerts at The Barn with performances by Valerie Milot (harp), Brian Manker (cello), Jordan Mowat (drummer/singer-songwriter), Ben Finley (double bass, composer), the Fitzgerald Family (fiddle and step-dancing), Amy Hillis (violinist), Donna Bennett (soprano), Brian Finley (pianist/composer), the New Orford String Quartet, and more.