January 31, 2009

Marlene Stephen, 1947-2009

Marlene StephenThe piping community in Western Canada lost one of its leaders with the death of Marlene Stephen on Monday, January 19th, at the age of 61. Marlene was the President of the Prairie Pipe Band Association of Manitoba for a number of years, and was well known to pipe band association executives in North America and Scotland for her work in Manitoba, and with the Alliance of North American Pipe Band Associations. One of Marlene’s proud moments was hosting an ANAPBA Summit in Winnipeg, and bringing the North American pipe band world to the prairies in winter.
Marlene held a Bachelor of Education and a Masters of Music Education, and she had a 41-year teaching career in Manitoba schools, which paralleled her long commitment to pipe bands and the Scottish community. She began playing the bagpipes as a young girl, and was a proud member of the Heather-Belle Ladies Pipe Band for 39 years, 21 as pipe-major. Under her leadership, the Heather-Belles travelled to compete in Scotland and across North America. In Scotland the band took prizes at several Highland Games over a couple of trips, including winning Best Ladies Pipe Band at the 1985 World Pipe Band Championships.
Marlene played leadership roles in many organizations, including the Winnipeg Scottish Festival, Bands on the Boardwalk Highland Games, Prairie Pipe Band Association of Manitoba, Rainbow Stage, Tempo Music Conference, International Music Camp, Manitoba Music Educators¹ Association, and Manitoba Highland Dancing Association.
Marlene was passionate about piping, dancing, pipe bands, music education, and her family. She was a determined organizer, and a champion of fair play and good sportsmanship at the games. Behind her school-teacher cadence and “you better not be late for massed bands” voice was a huge love of the culture and the music. She expressed that through her volunteer work, and her personal interest in the many children who passed through her classrooms, as music students, band members, or Highland Games participants.
The funeral will be on Saturday, January 24th, at 2 p.m. at Pantages Playhouse on Main Street in Winnipeg.
– submitted by Iain MacDonald, Regina, Saskatchewan


  1. Marlene’s passing is an immense loss for the Prairie Pipe Band community. I was honoured to be able to work with Marlene over many years. The pipe band world brought us together and it gave me an insight into the rest of her musical life. Her family and music were her life. What passion! What energy! What a great sense of humour! I cherished her friendship and will miss it immensely. To Marnie, Richard and Fiona my heartfelt sympathy. You know all too well the musical mark she has left for us. She’s off to a much better place and you can be assured that within days she’ll have it all well organized too. That’s our Marlene. God speed. Bob Worrall

  2. My heartfelt condolences go out to Marlene’s family in Winnipeg and to the rest of the pipe band community in Manitoba who will feel the loss of her. She did a great many things to advance the art in an area that is somewhat removed from the rest of the scene. May you rest in peace, Marlene.

  3. Marlene’s legacy will carry on in the hearts of the great many people she has touched, myself included. Her hard work and dedication to piping and drumming on the prairies is an inspiration, as well as a testament to her unwavering commitment to helping others. As a teacher, a musician, a mother, and a friend, she will be dearly missed.

  4. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Marlene during the formative (and functional) years of ANAPBA. I was impressed with her quiet, level headed approach to problem solving. If the piping and drumming world had more people like Marlene, we would be better prepared to deal with the various issues that seem to divide us. My condolences to her family and the Prairie Pipe Band Association.



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