Tuba skills earn P.E.I. student national prize

Emerson Hammill earned the prize playing in a virtual concert with the Canadian Junior Honour Band.

'The Mozart one, it was like really hard to play'

Grade 7 P.E.I. tuba player wins national award for outstanding performance

6 months ago
Duration 2:38
Emerson Hammill recently won the Slaight Music Outstanding Performer Award and was selected to play in the Canadian Junior Honour Band.

Tuba players don't often get much time in the spotlight.

They will sit near the back of the stage, not usually attracting a lot of attention, adding bass depth to the melody or helping to keep the rhythm, passing the glamour roles to violins or trumpets.

Emerson Hammill is an exception to that rule.

At the MusicFest Canada earlier this month, the tubist earned the Slaight Music Outstanding Performer Award, after having been selected to play in the Canadian Junior Honour Band with about 100 other student players from across the country.

"I guess they thought that I was really good," said Hammill.

A difficult challenge

Participating in the virtual concert was a lot of fun, she said. The festival included many different ensembles, and the final concert ran for an hour.

"It was pretty cool, because even though you couldn't see them [while you played] you could watch the video afterwards and there was hundreds of kids," she said.

Each musician recorded their part separately, and they were edited together for the concert.

The junior band played two pieces: Whirlwind by Jodie Blackshaw and the finale of Mozart's 15th Symphony.

"The Mozart one, it was like really hard to play but I eventually kind of got it," said Hammill.

Emerson Hammill can be seen at the upper right in this still from the Canada MusicFest concert. (Canada MusicFest)

The Grade 7 student is only in her second year of playing the tuba. Kirsten MacLaine, her music teacher at Gulf Shore consolidated, believes the hard work Hammill put in on the Mozart symphony earned her the prize.

"As a second year tubist, she would never have seen music that was quite that fast or quite that challenging before," said MacLaine.

Emerson Hammill worked very hard to master Mozart, says her music teacher, Kirsten MacLaine. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

"She would come in every day at lunch and just practice and practice and practice. She was just determined to master that little lick, and she did a great job of it. The fact that they recognized that was just really fantastic."

MacLaine said she was very grateful for the hard work the organizers put into organizing the virtual event, and was amazed at their ability to run a rehearsal with 100 students in a video conference.

"This pandemic has had a negative effect for a lot of these kids who are in programs like band," she said.

"They haven't had the opportunity to do some of the extra-curricular activities that make music fun."


Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. Kevin has a specialty in data journalism, and how statistics relate to the changing lives of Islanders. He has a BSc and a BA from Dalhousie University, and studied journalism at Holland College in Charlottetown. You can reach him at

With files from Isabelle Gallant


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