Board of Directors

Marc Chalifoux, Chair
Marzena Gersho, Vice Chair
Simion Candrea, Treasurer
Ilona Dougherty, Secretary
Philip Akin
Matthew Bernstein
Piyush Bhatnagar
Barrie Chercover
Ian Cusson
Kim Finkelstein
Amy Burstyn Fritz
Heather Legg
Joel Ivany, ex-officio
Robin Whiffen, ex-officio

Marc Chalifoux

Chair of the Board of Directors

Marc is Associate Vice President of Digital Performance where he oversees digital sales and servicing for TD’s largest business lines. He has had an eclectic career path that spans the private, public and non-profit sectors in both Canada and the US. He holds an MBA for MIT Sloan School of Management in Boston. Marc’s sole artistic talent is as an audience member and he pursues it passionately. After being blown away by Orphée+, he reached out to Against the Grain offering to help out. He joined the Board of Directors in January 2019 and became Chair in March 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. He enjoys great art and overcoming adversity.

Joel Ivany

Founder & Artistic Director

Joel Ivany is the Founder and Artistic Director of AtG, and is the artistic director of Opera at Banff Centre. His directing credits include productions of Verdi’s Macbeth (Minnesota Opera), Carmen (Vancouver Opera), Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Edmonton Opera), Gavin Bryars’ Marilyn Forever (Adelaide Festival) and Le nozze di Figaro (revival at Norwegian National Opera). He is the author of seven (and counting) original librettos for companies such as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company. He was a multiple Dora Mavor Moore Award nominee for Outstanding Direction and has also been nominated for multiple Dora Awards for Outstanding New Opera/Musical, winning one for Figaro’s Wedding. Recent mainstage directing credits include Dead Man Walking at Minnesota Opera and the multiple award-winning production of Gluck’s Orphée⁺ with Opera Columbus, AtG and Banff Centre. He has directed productions for the Canadian Opera Company (Carmen), Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Mozart’s Requiem, Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins), the Canadian Children’s Opera Company (Brundibár), Vancouver Opera (Carmen, Dead Man Walking), and Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus (AtG and Banff Centre). Upcoming directing credits include new productions of Figaro’s Wedding (AtG), Hänsel und Gretel (Canadian Opera Company) and Candide (Edmonton Opera). He is a proud graduate of the Opera School at U of T and is a member of the Alumni Wall of Fame at his alma mater, Western University.

Robin Whiffen

Executive Director

An arts administrator and performer from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Robin Whiffen was appointed as Against the Grain Theatre's first Executive Director in September 2019 after spending three seasons with Opera on the Avalon. Inspired by a lifelong love of music, Robin is passionate about creating opportunities for all to see themselves reflected through opera and removing the barriers of entry that make opera inaccessible to many.

Robin is a Master of Business Administration candidate at Memorial University of Newfoundland and holds a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from The University of Toronto. In September 2021, Robin was appointed as a member of The College of Electors for the University of Toronto representing the Faculty of Music.

In April 2021, Robin was selected to participate in the Business/Arts Executive Leadership Program which provides mentorship and career development for those who are interested in leading large arts, culture and heritage institutions. In 2017, she represented the Association for Opera in Canada at the OPERA America Leadership Intensive in New York City, which identifies the most promising professionals in the field of opera administration and provides them with a unique experience designed to bolster their leadership capacity and advance their careers. Robin has been invited to speak in her capacity as an arts leader and ambassador of the operatic art form for audiences in Canada and Europe.

Miriam Khalil

Founding Member & Associate Artistic Director

Juno nominated artist Miriam Khalil has appeared on numerous opera stages across Canada and Europe, including a stint at the renowned Glyndebourne Festival Opera (GFO) in the United Kingdom. An alumna of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, she won first place in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (Great Lakes Region) and subsequently appeared in the 2007 documentary The Audition. Her performance credits include Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Minnesota Opera, Opera Tampa, Fargo-Moorhead Opera, Opera Hamilton, Against the Grain Theatre (AtG), Edmonton Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, Opera Lyra Ottawa, and prominent orchestras across Canada, in roles such as Mimì (La bohème), Mélisande (Pelléas et Mélisande), Governess (The Turn of the Screw), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare), Almirena (Rinaldo), and the title role in Alcina. Ms. Khalil’s 2020/21 season includes appearances as Mimì in La bohème with Edmonton Opera, recitals with Music in the Morning, Concerts in Banff and Rockport and Strauss’ Four Last Songs with Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.

Daevyd Pepper

Digital Marketing Manager

Daevyd Pepper is a Canadian tenor and content strategist from Bracebridge, Ontario. He holds a BFA: Music from York University, MMUS: Opera from the Unviersity of Toronto, and is completing his Graduate Certificate in Content Strategy at Humber College. He is also an alumnus of several young artists and summer training programs with companies such as Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Calgary Opera, Vancouver Opera, Banff Centre Opera in the 21st Century, Highlands Opera Studio, and the Chautauqua Institution.

Daevyd is a diverse performer with an interest in doing things a little differently; which, is reflected in his diverse and unique performance resume. One of his greatest performing highlights include debuting the role of Addison Witless in the world’s first zombie opera "Prima Zombie: The Diva that Wouldn't Stay Dead!"

Daevyd is incredibly excited to join Against the Grain Theatre as their Digital Marketing Manager, where he can combine his passions of digital strategy and opera! Amidst all the chaos of 2020, Daevyd and his close friend and colleague Andrew Adridge co-founded an opera outreach company Opera InReach, which aims to increase the civic impact of opera through education and outreach.

Renee Fajardo

Metcalf Producing Intern

Born and raised in Manila, Filipino Mezzo-soprano Renee Fajardo has performed on both the opera stage and as a solo recitalist in the Philippines, the UK, Europe and Canada.

Winner of the Metcalf Performing Arts Grant, Renee is thrilled to join AtG this season as a
Producing Intern. In this new role, she will further her commitment to building a more equitable, diverse and justice-facing industry for all historically-underrepresented identities in opera.

Equally passionate about performance and off-stage creative practice, Renee sings with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, and is a mentor and provincial coordinator for Opera InReach where she co-develops supplementary opera curriculum materials for highschool students through the lens of equity, diversity and inclusivity. She also volunteers as an Institutional Giving intern with Boulanger Initiative, working on funding opportunities to support and advocate for works composed by women and marginalized gender composers.

As a settler of Filipino heritage, she is grateful to be currently based in T’karonto (Toronto), the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples; currently home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

Renee recently completed her Masters in Opera Performance from the University of Toronto, and holds a first-class Bachelor of Music degree from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Ashna Thaya

Artistic Administration Coordinator

Ashna is thrilled to be joining the AtG team as the Artistic Administration Coordinator. She has a background in editing and publishing academic and creative work, specifically with an anti-oppression focus. She is deeply passionate about intersectional equity, diverse representation, and decolonization in the arts. Ashna recently completed her Honors Bachelors of Administration from the Ivey Business School at Western University.