BIG WIN – Emma Mackay

Two local members of the pipe band hold provincial titles

Ryan Mackay and his sister Emma recently took home the impressive hardware

Two young local members of the Red Deer Legion Pipe Band are the best in their class in all of Alberta.

Ryan Mackay, 17, and his sister Emma, 15, currently hold provincial titles.

Ryan, who plays the bagpipes, took home the Gr. 3 Alberta aggregate trophy and the Gr. 3 junior piobaireachd as well best overall in his category.

Emma, who plays the tenor drums, was also awarded the Gr. 3 Alberta aggregate trophy in her group. The competition in which she won her trophy was her first.

“I was pretty happy and excited,” she said.

Both Ryan and Emma won their hardware at the end of last summer. Points are accumulated throughout all of the season’s Highland games and overall winners are announced at the end of the season.

Ryan and Emma will compete at a Gr. 2 level this year.

“I’m competing against my pipe major. We have a little bit of friendly competition going,” laughed Ryan.

The Mackay’s moved to Red Deer from Scotland five years ago. Andrew, the kids’ father had a job opportunity here.

In Scotland, Ryan was part of a pipe band and joined the Red Deer group when they first moved. Emma joined the Red Deer Legion Pipe Band in 2008.

“I was 10-years-old when I first learned and it’s something I wanted to do when we lived in Scotland,” said Ryan.

He added being apart of the Red Deer pipe band is something he enjoys.

“It’s really fun,” said Ryan. “They’re a really great group.”

Emma, who also Highland dances, said she’s enjoyed learning to play the drums.

“It seemed like a cool thing to do,” she said as to why she got started. “It’s a lot of fun. And I like learning.”

Ryan added part of the appeal of the pipe band for him is that not many people in Canada play that particular instrument.

Their mother Isobel Mackay said she’s very proud of both Ryan and Emma.

“They’ve done extremely well and the pipe band here has really looked after them,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group for them.”

Both Ryan and Emma said they plan to continue playing in the local pipe band and hope to one day advance to a professional level.

“I hope to join a Gr. 1 pipe band. I don’t know which one but Simon Fraser University is one that I’m looking at,” said Ryan.

Emma agreed.

“I want to do that same,” she said.

Going into this competition season Ryan said he hopes he does well.

“It’s a new grade so I hope to win quite a few,” he said. “I hope to continue to learn new things as well.”

The Red Deer Pipe Band was originally formed in 1948 as a girls’ band, and at the time, it was under the direction of Pipe Major Ted Elder and Drum Sergeant Sam Baxter, said Arnie MacAskill, events coordinator for the Red Deer Legion Pipe Band.

The Red Deer Legion Branch 35 took over sponsorship of the band in 1970. In addition to participating in street parades, cultural and recreational events in and around Central Alberta, the Red Deer Legion Pipe Band has also been active on the competition circuit since 1983.

The band is currently under the direction of Pipe Major Frank Neelands, and Drum Sergeant John Soderberg.

“Interest in piping and drumming is presently strong as evident by the number of individuals of all ages currently receiving instruction weekly by members of the pipe band,” said MacAskill. “This will help to ensure a solid membership in years to come. However, the band is always looking for new members of all abilities.”

For information regarding hiring the band or individual pipers, contact Arnie MacAskill at 403-782-7183 or email to

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