Emma-Marie Eaton has been playing the bagpipes for 10 months, yet she’s already well-known for her skill.
The 15-year-old Oilfields High School student recently performed at a vigil honouring the Canadians killed in last month’s Nova Scotia mass shooting, but that wasn’t her first performance. The Turner Valley teen has also played for the Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps Pipes and Drum Band, school assemblies, Remembrance Day ceremonies, a girls basketball provincial tournament and is the first bagpiper for the 2383 Oilfields Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corp.
“I feel pretty special being known as the bagpiper in my community,” she said.
Eaton is one of two recipients of the Beneath the Arch Concert Series Bursary this year. The bursaries are funded through the sale of 50/50 raffle tickets during music concerts held at the Flare ‘n’ Derrick Community Hall in Turner Valley.
Eaton said the $500 she received will help her pay for maintaining her bagpipes, which she said is quite expensive.
The teen, who is of Scottish descent, learned to play the bagpipes at the Rocky Mountain Cadet Training Centre last summer.
“It was pretty hard the first week and then I just gained the experience with all of the other cadets and just fell in love with it,” she said. “It came really easy to me.”
Eaton, who has also played the French horn, flute, clarinet, trumpet and saxophone, said she favours the bagpipes.
“I like the sound of them and it’s really cool to play them because I’m learning a new instrument that not many people know how to play,” she said. “I like the warming up process and taking care of them is really important to me.”
Jane Toews, Beneath the Arch Concert Series director of promotions and sponsorship, said the bursary was established several years ago to provide financial assistance to young performing arts students.
“It’s a good way to leave a legacy,” she said. “They can use it for their lessons, special music camps, dance recitals, costumes or to buy an instrument. There’s lots of ways to spend that money.”
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alberta in March, the non-profit concert series was forced to cancel its remaining concerts for the season.
Toews said the amount of money distributed was much less than in recent years, yet 50/50 raffle ticket sales were successful enough at those first five concerts to make a difference to two High Country youth.
“People are really supportive,” she said. “They will buy tickets knowing that’s where it’s going.”
The concert series board of directors received eight applications this year, all from youth showing enthusiasm and determination in their pursuits of the arts, said Toews.
“They want to further their love of the arts,” she said. “It’s a wonderful quality to see in kids.”
Fourteen-year-old Ariana Brunn, who received a $800 bursary, has been involved with both dance and piano for years.
“I was quite surprised when I got the phone call,” said Brunn of receiving the bursary. “I was over the moon.”
The Black Diamond teen completed Level 6 Royal Conservatory of Music and Level 5 in theory, as well as 10 years of dance with the Alberta Dance Academy in Okotoks.
Before the dance studio closed its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brunn was dancing three days a week and competing on alternating Saturdays. She dances ballet, jazz, lyrical/contemporary and acro and assists with teaching less experienced dancers at the Alberta Dance Academy.
In 2017, Brunn received a rare invitation to attend a convention in Paris where she trained in ballet, contemporary, jazz and hip hop. This year, she received the highest ranking of distinction in the ballet exam.
Brunn said she plans to use the bursary money to help pay for her dance costumes, as well as piano and dance fees.