It's been a golden summer for 13-year-old bagpiper Kellan Harris-Still.

In his first year of competition, he won seven gold and one silver medal at the Highland Games in Sherwood Park, Calgary, and Canmore at the Sherwood Park Highlands Gathering in Grade 5 piping in the 2/4 march and slow air. He also won the Grade 5 aggregate award at each competition.

Kellan took up bagpiping four years ago, and no one else plays in his family.

"I went to a Culture Days and one of the members of the Cochrane Pipe Band was playing and he volunteered to give me lessons," says Kellan. "One thing lead to another, and now I'm a bagpiper."

Kallen bagpipingKellan competes in all four of Alberta's Highland events this summer.

Kellan says he doesn't get nervous before competing because he finds piping absolutely invigorating. It's after his performance that he second-guesses himself.

"After you play for all the judges, you can get a bit nervous about how you did, because you can kind of get in your own head and criticize all this stuff you may or may not have done."

In bagpiping, there is a professional class plus five different grade levels. Grade 5 is the entry-level.

Kellan practices 30 to 45 minutes daily and is determined to continue to improve his proficiency in what's an extremely difficult instrument to master. He finds the most challenging part is placing your fingers on the chatter holes.

"It really takes a specific form, and even a specific size of fingers, so it's really about learning how to stretch them out."

Besides the 2/4 march and slow air, he wants to compete in the 6/8 march and Pribroch categories.

"I'm going to go into the others as well to kind of branch out my horizons on different tunes and different timings of tunes," he says.

In competition, Kellan typically performs Scotland the Brave, Flower of Scotland, Amazing Grace, and Highland Cathedral. In all, though, he has memorized and can play about 50 different tunes.

With the parade and Highland Games season over, he'll continue to practice and perform with the Cochrane Pipe Band and is a member of the Slainte Social Club. He says the social club was originally formed by professional pipers as a mental well-being movement through COVID-19 and has since continued.

When the pipers perform remotely, he says it still sounds the same--very loud.

Kellan has volunteered to perform at the Remembrance Day ceremony at the École Manachaban Middle School and might be performing at a Robbie Burns celebration in January.

"For now, it's just playing with my different bands and biding my time until the next season."

KallenBesides the Cochrane Pipe Band, Kellan is also a member of the Slainte Social Club.