Ben Waldman appreciates a good story. Here’s his.
Ben was born in Winnipeg in 1995 to parents who inspired in him a love of learning, a sense of curiosity, and above all, a commitment to do the right thing. It took until he wrote the previous sentence for him to realize it, but in retrospect, a career in journalism has always made perfect sense.
Raised on McAdam Avenue, he could be seen drawing cartoons, doing silly impersonations, shooting — and occasionally swishing — jump shots in the back lane, and playing soccer for the Sinclair Park Falcons with a huge chip on his shoulder.
His education came from school, but he learned most of what he needed to know about the world at Camp Massad, where he spent nine summers as a camper and five as a counsellor. At camp, Ben channeled his creative energy, writing epic plays with his friends, discovering the value of schtick, and learning a lesson that his mom — an early childhood educator — would have appreciated: there is more to every kid, and therefore every person, than what shows on the surface.
That idea is a driving force in Ben’s idea of journalism, and he put it into practice at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism, from which he graduated in 2018 with the gold medal and a number of other awards his classmates deserved more.
While a student at Ryerson, he wrote and edited for The Eyeopener and was a managing editor for the Ryerson Review of Journalism. He sent three clips of his work in The Eyeopener to the Winnipeg Free Press in November 2016, leading to his first internship at his hometown paper.
The next two summers, he interned again. In September 2018, he began a year-long freelancing journey, publishing work in Maclean’s, Chatelaine, Toronto Life, Sharp Magazine, the United Church Observer, and the Globe and Mail, while also writing local news and long-form journalism for the Free Press.
In October 2019, he joined the Free Press full time.
That’s his story. He’s sticking to it.
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The Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble has appointed a pair of new artistic directors: Jesse Popeski and Sarah Sommer.
Neither are strangers to the ensemble, which has been singing, playing, and dancing to Jewish and Israeli music for crowds in the city and around the world since its founding in 1964. A renowned guitarist on the local music scene, Popeski joined the Chai orchestra in 2015 and eventually became the group’s music director.
“It all started because they needed a guitarist,” says the recent graduate of the University of Manitoba’s faculty of music, who says he was the first member of his family to become a musician, let alone to join and one day lead a Jewish folk ensemble.
Not so for Sommer, a vocalist, music educator and choral director who was named for her late grandmother, Sarah Sommer, the organization’s namesake, founder, and, although she didn’t have an official title, its first artistic director.