Published: January 31, 2011

Merry times back as College of Piping rebounds in PEI

The College of Piping & Celtic Performing Arts in Summerside, Prince Edward, has enjoyed a successful resurgence in the last six months, with enrollment improving by more than 60 per cent from the same time a year ago and the return of the Summerside Highland Gathering after a two-year hiatus.

According to Director of Education James MacHattie, who was appointed to the role in May 2010, enrollment in the College continues to climb, as programs are resumed or expanded.

“We’re now not too far off the highest recorded number of students,” MacHattie said. He added that he and his staff of three full-time and three part-time piping and drumming instructors have a full schedule of classes, including one night each week in Charlottetown, the largest city in Prince Edward Island.

Nick van Ouwerkerk, a piper who was originally taught at the College, has been hired as a full-time instructor, which has helped to allow for “drastically reduced” class sizes and “far more individual attention to students than had been possible before.”

MacHattie said that the Summerside Highland Gathering will return June 24-26 after being cancelled for the last two years, and that his organization is working on funding to bring in a guest Grade 1 band, which he hopes to confirm soon.

The George Watson’s College Pipe Band from the Edinburgh area of Scotland will be making a trip to the Canadian Maritimes in the summer, and has scheduled a concert at the College on July 15th. George Watson’s travelled to compete in Ontario in 2007 and 2009.

The College of Piping also recently launched a new version of its website, and had success with fundraising initiatives including a silent auction in which more than $2,000 was gained through bids for donated lessons, music books and equipment, and its annual raffle for a new car, a 2011 Ford Mustang convertible, and 18 other prizes.

The College of Piping’s teaching program has endured a period of unsettlement since the death of Scott MacAulay in 2008, with several people hired for the Director position of the organization, only to see them either let go or resign. James MacHattie was hired as Director of Education specifically, a new position that was part of an overall restructuring.

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