Celtic arts facility has big summer planned to mark milestone
SUMMERSIDE – A love for the Celtic arts has allowed Summerside’s College of Piping to see its 25th year.
College of Piping
Karen Hatcher has been the executive director for four years, she said the organization is the strongest it’s ever been thanks to the team of instructors.
“We’re drawing instructors from around the world. They have come from New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Vancouver, and South Africa,” said Hatcher.
She grew up in Summerside and left to expand her career in hospitality for 25 years, and returned to take on the position at the college.
“I’m a bagpiper, so 25 years later my hobby and my professional life have collided.”
It’s more of a lifestyle than a job for the people who work there, she said.
Hatcher said they’re the only facility of its kind teaching year-round in the Celtic arts.
“It’s a niche community, but it’s not an elitist community. Everyone is welcome at the College of Piping.”
The programs are custom created for students of all ages. Whether you’re three or 73 coming through the doors, she added.
She thinks it will be an exciting year. The college will be celebrating on June 27, 28, and 29 with the Summerside homecoming highland gathering, and they’re inviting alumni to help commemorate the occasion.
“We’re celebrating a lot of firsts. We’ll be hosting three competition pipe bands, which is a first in the history of the college. Our dance company has been reformed to highland and step dancing. In August, we have two pipe bands heading to Scotland vying for two world championship titles.”
She said they are community-focused and are grateful for the support because they are a registered non-profit charity.
“Our over 200 students are out in the community participating at events, whether it be through performances or fundraising initiatives. We like to give back to the community as much as we ask the community to support us.”
Kearsney Smith, from South Africa, has been the highland dance instructor for three years.
“To try a new place and be able to teach dancing every day is an exciting thing.”
Smith said it’s great for the college to have reached this milestone.
“I think it’s a huge achievement and just to be here for it is very exciting.”
She said it’s unique and not like your average educational facility.
“A passion for the Celtic arts is what keeps the college going.”
Drumming instructor Chris Coleman has been with the college for six years, and grew up around pipe bands and drumming because his father played.
“It’s a great organization, but you get the chance to do what you love for a living. To be able to do it as a career is just a fantastic opportunity.”
Coleman said they’re expecting to see a lot of old and familiar faces at the celebrations next month.
“I think we’re all excited to be here welcoming people back through our doors.”
He thinks one of the main reasons the college continues going strong is because of the support its receives from the community and volunteers.
“There are a lot of people who are still involved in what the college does who have been here since the very beginning. That’s probably one of the primary reasons we’re still here.”