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Cape Breton Music Workshops
St. Thomas the Apostle Church - Music Room
Ottawa, ON
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A series of two hour workshops, mix and match sessions to fill your day and create a mini-Gaelic College experience! For all sessions students are expected to bring their own instrument, and may also bring music stands and recording devices if desired. Each session is $25, with a discount for those registering for two or more sessions.

All sessions are open to any age, however students 10 and under must have a parent or guardian stay onsite during the entire class.

Advance registration preferred, onsite registration will be available space permitting. Tickets for the house concert that Ben, Anita, Tyson and Zakk will be performing at later in the day must be reserved directly with the concert host Graham Crate at

9am-11am Cape Breton Fiddle Beginner/Intermediate Level

Suited to those who play already but are unfamiliar with the Cape Breton Style, or those who are relatively new to playing fiddle and would like an introduction to Cape Breton tunes and styles. Tune(s) will be taught at a slower pace and with less advanced ornamentation.

9am-11am Cape Breton Piano Accompaniment Intermediate/Advanced
Intended for those who already have some experience playing piano accompaniment this will be an intermediate/advanced level course on rhythms and choosing chords for common Cape Breton fiddle tunes. Please arrive  15 minutes ahead of the start time to set up keyboards. Students must bring their own keyboard, there may be a keyboard available please contact or post a request on the Ottawa Cape Breton Session Facebook group to connect with someone who may have a keyboard they are willing to loan you for the session.

11am-1pm Cape Breton Fiddle Intermediate/Advanced Level
Intended for those who already play but who would like to learn the tunes and styling unique to Cape Breton fiddling. Learn how to get the Gaelic into the playing, and how to keep the dancers lively.

11am-1pm Smallpipes (A)
Explore this rich style of playing with a strong focus on rhythm and musicality and an inherent link with the song and dance traditions of Gaelic culture. This course is most suitable for small pipes or border pipes in the key of A. Private sessions for pipes in D may be arranged for earlier in the day. Inquire at for a private session.

2pm-4pm Celtic Guitar Accompaniment Intermediate/Advanced Level

Intended for those who already have some experience playing guitar accompaniment this will be an intermediate/advanced level course on rhythms and choosing chords for common Cape Breton fiddle tunes. Bring your guitar, and a recording device if you wish. Depending on how things go, the guitar class may join the piper in the stepdance class for a 10 minute jam at the end.

2pm-4pm Cape Breton Stepdance and Square Sets
Learn some Cape Breton, close to the floor jig, reel and strathspey steps. Please bring comfortable shoes with a leather or hard sole, running shoes or shoes with lots of traction would not be appropriate. Bring a video camera if you like to record the steps taught. Suitable for all levels, the class will break out after the introduction with those interested in advanced steps in one group and those interested in steps for square sets and the most common square set figures in another group.

Instructor Bios:

ANITA MACDONALD is an accomplished musician, dancer, and Gaelic singer from Little Narrows, Cape Breton.  She began stepdancing in the family kitchen at the tender age of four, and picked up the fiddle a few short years later, at age eight. Anita has been wowing audiences with her impeccable timing and neatly choreographed steps ever since. Anitas fiddle playing has a distinctive sound, influenced by the deep roots of her musical family and her teachers throughout the years. Her energetic style has put her in demand as a performer and teacher, across Cape Breton and beyond. She has been a featured artist in the Celtic Colours International Festival, and has toured throughout New England with Cape Breton folk trio, The Goins On. Anita is also the recipient of the Frank Big Sampie Sampson Award, nominated by the Festival Volunteer Driveers Association. Following this award, Anita released her debut album, Stepping Stone, during the 2011 Celtic Colours International Festival.

BEN MILLAR is an American-born player of Scottish bagpipes, currently living in Cape Breton, NS.  His interest in traditional music stems from his exposure to the pipes at a young age, in his hometown of Queensbury, New York, as well as his familys strong connections to its Scottish and Irish roots, through both his American mother and Canadian father. He began studying the Highland Bagpipes around age eight, but by twelve he began to shift his focus to the bellows-blown Scottish smallpipes and Border pipes. Ben is also an academic, holding an undergraduate degree in Music, as well as a Master's degree in Scottish Ethnology, from the University of Edinburgh's School of Scottish Studies. His repertoire and style draw mainly on the Gaelic traditions of Western Scotland and the Canadian Maritimes, blended with a healthy dash of Irish tunes for good measure.

ZAKK CORMIER is rooted in the Acadian fiddling traditions of PEI's Evangeline Region. He is a young multi-instrumentalist who has quickly become a favourite accompanist for many PEI and Cape Breton performers, as well as accompanying the legendary Uilleann piper, Paddy Keenan.

TYSON CHEN is a freelance pianist, accompanist, and piano teacher based in Ottawa, Ontario and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.  Tyson performs an eclectic mix of musical styles including Celtic, popular, classical, and jazz. He complements his performances by teaching workshops and private lessons with a focus on Cape Breton piano accompaniment. He studied classical and popular music in Ottawa, where he grew up. In recent years, he has lived and breathed Celtic music in the heart of Cape Breton where he has become a popular piano accompanist among fiddlers. He has also recently explored the world of jazz music and is currently studying jazz and Celtic piano in Ottawa. His performances range from high-energy stage productions to intimate musical gatherings. He has played for international festivals, musical theatre, and cruise ships as well as square dances, ceilidhs, and many community events. Tyson currently tours with the ECMA Nominated Celtic Duo, Ben Miller & Anita MacDonald (Scottish Border pipes, Cape Breton fiddle), throughout Canada, the US, and internationally.
Registration Options
There are no active dates for this event.
Thanks for participating in our Cape Breton music workshops. Hope to see you at a Cape Breton Session soon - first and third Sunday of each month at Mill. St. Brew Pub 555 Wellington St. Ottawa, ON.


St. Thomas the Apostle Church - Music Room (View)
2345 Alta Vista Dr.
Ottawa, ON K1H 7M6


Education > Workshops
Music > All Ages
Music > Celtic
Music > Folk

Minimum Age: 8
Kid Friendly: Yes!
Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!


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