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Sweet chin music: Hay River fiddlers earn scholarships

Two fiddlers with the Purple Pick Studio have qualified for a new scholarship.
Simara and Coira Wilson, two young fiddling sisstesr with the Purple Pick Music Studio were recent recipients of a new scholarship called the Gladys Burke Wilson Memorial Scholarship. photo courtesy of Linda Duford

Two fiddlers with the Purple Pick Studio have qualified for a new scholarship.

Simara, 16, and Coira Wilson, 11, both students of the Purple Pick Studio were the the first winners of a national financial award called the Gladys Burke Wilson Memorial Scholarship.

Studio instructor Linda Duford, in seeking out scholarships and any financial aid, came across the scholarship late last year and had the girls apply.

Lisa Freeman, a resident of Oshawa, Ont. said she started the scholarship in memory of her mother, a fiddle player,who passed away in Nov. 2021.

To mark her mother’s birthday on Jan. 31, Freeman announced that Hay River’s Wilson sisters would split $2,000 to go to private lessons at Purple Pick.

The money aims to cover all weekly private lessons for fiddle playing for both girls as well as any summertime opportunities for summer camps or summer fiddle related activities.

Any difference that is required, Duford has committed to making up and supporting herself.

“The scholarship is based on not only talent, but a willingness to learn and to better themselves, with the instrument,” Freeman said.

“Based on their application, they are lovely girls from a nice family and never hesitate to help out whenever they’re asked to help out. So they are not only intelligent fiddle players, but a really good couple of girls as well.”

Duford said that the news was special for her students and her school as operating during the Covid-19 pandemic has had its challenges.

Gathering limitations at the private music school have largely paralleled closures of other facilities in town, particularly elementary and high schools.

The scholarship opportunity, however, provided a bright spot for the Wilson sisters to put together a video recording for Freeman, to showcase their musical talent and talk about themselves.

“I think she (Freeman) just fell in love with them,” Duford said.

“Part of the scholarship requirement was that they showed promise and that they’ve been fiddling for a long time. But they also had to show that they could use the money.”

Duford said that the scholarship is unique and special as it isn’t often that such funding support is available for younger fiddlers. Based on what she has found, most musical scholarship funding is designed for older students who are intending to study at the post-secondary level. In other cases, there are some grants in Canada that exist to help students go to summer camp.

“So this was really unique because I don’t think there’s very many of these kinds of opportunities in Canada,” she said. “For two little girls from a little town in the Northwest Territories, it’s just so special.”