artistic Team


Sarah Sommer is an active choral conductor, vocalist and music educator in Winnipeg. She completed her Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Education in June 2017 from the University of Manitoba, and is currently teaching music at Technical-Vocational High School. Sarah also teaches music lessons and Bar/Bat Mitzvah lessons from her private studio. She has appeared as choir member and soloist with many local ensembles, including Canzona, Dead of Winter (formerly Camerata Nova), the Winnipeg Singers, and the Shaarey Zedek Quartet.In addition to her role as co-artistic director of the Chai Folk Ensemble, Sarah is also the co-founder and co-artistic director of NUOVOCE Chamber Choir, and director of the Etz Chayim High Holy Days Choir. Some of Sarah’s past directing credits include: the Chai Folk Ensemble (vocal director, 2011-2017), Kolot Community Voices (co-founder and director, 2015/16), Winnipeg School Division Honour Choir (guest conductor, 2017/18), and Louis Riel School Division Intermediate Choir (guest conductor, Choral Celebrations, 2019), and the Winnipeg Girls’ Choir (assistant conductor). Recently, Sarah completed her Post Baccalaureate Diploma in Vocal Performance under the tutelage of Tracy Dahl. Sarah has a passion for world music and language-learning, and has experience teaching in Spanish, Hebrew and French. She is thrilled to be returning to Chai after being away for the past 5 years! 

Jesse Popeski
CO-artistic DIRECTOR

Jesse Popeski is a Winnipeg guitar player and a recent graduate of the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Music. A regular face on the Manitoba music scene, Jesse can be seen playing with groups such as Beatox & Sir Luc and the Dukes. He has been one of Grace Hrabi's main collaborators since 2013. Jesse joined the Chai orchestra in June 2015.


Cameron Denby is a Métis percussionist, teacher, and project director. He holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Manitoba, and a Professional Studies Diploma from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Since returning to Winnipeg in 2019, Cameron has been creating and directing concerts and projects, including the Fresh Blood Project, an ongoing collaborative initiative between composers and percussionists. Working in a variety of circles, Cameron has performed many local organizations, including the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Little Opera Company, and the Winnipeg Police Pipe Band. Outside of performance, Cameron teaches private lessons on drumset, marimba, and percussion.

Grace hrabi
Vocal Director

Grace Hrabi is a singer-songwriter/ multi-instrumentalist born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After graduating from the University of Manitoba in 2008 with a BA in Vocal Jazz Performance, Grace began writing, arranging and performing her own original music, diving into the folk genre while keeping herself rooted in the jazz scene. She is also a passionate educator providing private instruction on ukulele, saxophone and voice at private studios throughout Winnipeg.  Grace is a member of the folk trio Casati, who tour across Canada sharing their music and stories.

Rachael Buchwald
Dance DirectoR

Rachael Buchwald has spent most of her life dancing! Rachael’s formal training began with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School’s Recreational Division’s Intensive Training Program from 2013-2017, where she completed her Advanced 1 Cecchetti examinations and studied ballet, pointe, and modern. She also danced in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School’s Recreational Division’s Dance Ensemble Program from 2012-2017, performing jazz, contemporary, and hip-hop pieces. Rachael has received professional ballet training at the Colorado Ballet Academy’s Summer Training Program in 2014, and at the Goh Ballet Academy’s Ballet Academic Program from 2015-2016 in Vancouver. Rachael has been a dancer with the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble since 2017. She has travelled with the group to Cuba, Israel and Ukraine. Rachael was appointed Rehearsal Director in 2022 and is thrilled to continue in her

Elan marchinko
Artistic Advisor of Dance

Elan Marchinko is a PhD Candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies at York University and a Sessional Lecturer in Canadian Studies at the University of Toronto. She has trained extensively in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, contemporary, flamenco, and various folk dance forms. Most recently, Elan was a finalist in the 2021 Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana Certamen USA in NYC where she won First Prize and a scholarship to study at Amor de Dios in Madrid. She has been an artistic contributor to Toronto companies Signal Theatre and ParaSoul Dance, and her writing about performance and public memory has been featured in journals such as Canadian Theatre Review; in Canada’s national dance magazine, The Dance Current; and in the edited collection, Remembering Air India: The Art of Public Mourning. With the Chai Folk Ensemble, Elan enjoyed many wonderful years as a dancer, dance co-director, and guest choreographer. Now based in the US, she is happy to be back “home” with Chai.