Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Nova Scotia Talent Trust Announces Sheila K. Piercey (Legacy) Award

Last year the arts community lost Sheila K. Piercey, an accomplished soprano, teacher, mentor, beloved aunt, and loyal friend to many. 

Piercey’s passion for singing, and commitment to aspiring artists, was evident during every stage of her life, from her time with the Canadian Opera Company to her instructor years at Dalhousie University and the years after as a supporter of the arts in Nova Scotia and Canada.

Sheila Piercey was so kind to leave a bequest in the amount of $20,000 to the Talent Trust. In consultation with Sheila’s family we decided to honour her legacy by creating a new special award for a voice student. 
The Sheila K. Piercey (Legacy) Award will be administered by the Nova Scotia Talent Trust and awarded for the first time at the annual Special Awards Ceremony in December 2020. The award winner will be chosen from among the pool of gifted voice recipients who have already received a Talent Trust scholarship for the current application year. 

“We are honoured to be able to continue Sheila Piercey’s legacy through this generous award towards voice studies. We thank Sheila Piercey for thinking of the Talent Trust and her family for their support and help in establishing the special award”, states Jacqueline Steudler, Executive Director NSTT.

The Sheila K. Piercey (Legacy) Award will be given to a Talent Trust scholarship music recipient who shows exceptional commitment and potential in the field of voice. The award is $2,000. Further donations towards the award can be made through the Talent Trust at

About Sheila K. Piercey (From her obituary:

Sheila grew up in a lovely home built by her father on Dutch Village Road. She was an active, spirited, and vivacious child. She admitted on numerous occasions that she gave her parents a headache or two! These qualities and strength of will served her well for her entire life both on and off the stage.

She began singing at a very young age under the tutelage of her mother, but had varied interests and activities on her journey to Canadian opera icon. In her formative years, Sheila attended Halifax Ladies College, and toured with a ballet company and skating show. She attended Dalhousie University from 1951-1954 where she played on many sports teams, was a cheerleader and performed in multiple productions with the Dalhousie Glee and Dramatic Society and King’s College Dramatic and Choral Society.

This is when Sheila decided that her true calling was on the stage. After much success as a vocalist in Halifax studying with Leonard Mayoh, Sheila moved to Toronto in 1956 when she was offered a scholarship to study at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto opera program.

With Ernesto Vinci as her mentor she blossomed into a professional soprano on the National stage joining the Canadian Opera Company in 1958. This relationship spanned 22 mainstage roles and 16 COC tours over 13 years. Sheila was considered a member of a group of COC pioneers whose touring made opera more accessible to audiences. Sheila often told entertaining stories of touring to such places as Alaska and the NWT and of life on a tour bus. Her interest in photography made her the unofficial photographer and historian of all her COC tours. In addition to performances with the COC Sheila sang regularly on the CBC and at the Banff Centre, Stratford Festival, Rainbow Stage and Charlottetown Festival Sheila retired from the COC and moved home to Nova Scotia in 1971. From 1977 to 1982, she taught voice at Dalhousie University and this is when her transition from singer to philanthropist began. A passion for helping young singers unlock their artistic potential was ignited and she became an avid supporter of the Performing Arts in Nova Scotia and Canada for the rest of her life.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Evenings @ Government House with Ellen Gibling & India Gailey

Former Talent Trust Scholarship recipients, cellist India Gailey and harpist Ellen Gibling, are performing at Evenings @ Government House on 
Tuesday, October 6 from 7 - 8:30pm.

Note: It is important to read registration information and health and safety regulations as they pertain to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find this information and more about the performance here.

There will also be a Facebook live stream at 

India Gailey is a cellist, composer, and improviser. She draws from many eras and genres, often working with living composers, the standard/obscure contrast, and musicians outside of the Western classical tradition. She recently earned her Master of Music degree under the tutelage of Matt Haimovitz at McGill’s Schulich School of Music. Other recent doings include performing across Canada, The United States, and Germany; working with Philip Glass at Scotia Festival; holding a fellowship at Garth Newel Music Center in Virginia, and releasing her first solo album, Lucid. She is a member of the acclaimed environmental ensemble New Hermitage, whose fifth recording, Unearth, will be released this fall. India is the recipient of several awards, including five Nova Scotia Talent Trust Scholarships and the Yuh Lih and Marion Kuo Award for Instrumental Excellence (2017). (

Ellen Gibling is a harpist based in K'jipuktuk/Halifax, Nova Scotia. With the support of the Nova Scotia Talent Trust, she studied classical harp performance at McGill University, going on to train with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and the World Youth Orchestra of Jeunesses Musicales. Recently, she spent a year abroad pursuing a masters degree in Irish Traditional Music Performance at the University of Limerick in Ireland. Ellen has enjoyed an active performing and teaching career on Canada's east coast over the past decade, working with local organizations and artists, including Mocean Dance, Symphony Nova Scotia, Jenn Grant, the Halifax Camerata Singers, and the Halifax Summer Opera Festival. She is a member of the traditional music ensembles Ragged Robin, Harpaflöjt, and Síle, as well as the improvisation quartet New Hermitage. Ellen teaches at the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts, and has also taught at Acadia University, the University of Limerick, and the Canadian International Summer Harp Institute. (

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Celebrate Talent Trust's 2020 Scholarship Recipients

The NS Talent Trust Continues to Invest in 
Aspiring Nova Scotian Artists.  

Having finished its adjudication process, the NS Talent Trust has awarded scholarships to 67 emerging Nova Scotian artists in dance, music, theatre, film/new media, circus arts, literary arts, and visual arts coming from all over the province. 


This year's Talent Trust recipients come from Prospect Bay, Bible Hill, Windsor Junction, Lower Sackville, Hammonds Plains, Valley, Falmouth, Truro, Montague Gold Mines, Wolfville, New Glasgow, Millville, Sydney, Beaver Bank, Canning, Fall River, as well as Bedford, Dartmouth and Halifax. These aspiring artists have proven their commitment to their art by adapting through the uncertain times of a global pandemic by adjusting and changing their programs and studying virtually. Recipients attended virtual programs all over the world, from the United States to the UK to Switzerland.


Through their residencies, mentorships, and schooling, NSTT scholarship recipients inevitably promote Nova Scotia's cultural relevance by studying in some of the best institutions worldwide. Like Portia White herself, the original catalyst for the organization's formation, recipients sometimes become world-renowned. Think Jane Archibald, Bretten Hannam, and George Elliot Clarke. Since Portia's impetus in 1944, the Talent Trust has distributed over two million dollars in scholarships to over 1,000 recipients. 


The independent, volunteer Scholarship Selection Committees, made up of twelve professional artists, two from each discipline, obviously recognize the artistic skill and look for lasting commitment signs. The artist's life has more than its fair share of challenges, and for the NSTT, dedication to professional achievement is as essential as artistic potential. Since the province is overflowing with talent, the decisions are never easy. 


This year's 67 successful scholarship recipients were chosen from a field of 134 applications over two submission periods, 1 March and 1 May 2020. Five of the 88 scholarships are supported by the NS Arts Endowment Fund of $2,000 each.

They are India Gailey for Music, Jonah McKay for Interdisciplinary, Sara Leslie for Literary Arts, Gabrielle Kachan for Dance, and Jillian Peters for Theatre. 

The Nova Scotia Talent Trust's scholarships totalled $80,000 in 2020, which is only possible through various generous grants and individual donations. We thank our individual donors, the Craig Foundation, the RBC Foundation, and Arts Nova Scotia for their support during this special time. 

More than ever, we realized over the last couple of months how much the arts and the individual artists help us to stay mentally healthy. Nova Scotia artists supported us in the darkest days with their talent and generosity. 

Let's celebrate the 2020 Nova Scotia Talent Trust scholarship recipients, which signify our cultural future! 


List of the 2020 Talent Trust Scholarship and Nova Scotia Arts Endowment Fund Scholarship Recipients


  • Lily McGrath, Dartmouth


  • Julia Barkhouse, Dartmouth 
  • Brooklyn Law, Bedford
  • Shannon Mullally, Dartmouth
  • Maggie Oates-Johnson, Dartmouth
  • Mollie Oates-Johnson, Dartmouth
  • Scarlett Reynolds, Prospect Bay
  • Eden Robichaud, Bible Hill
  • Stan Tonin, Windsor Junction
  • Aidan Vaudreuil Wakeham, Lower Sackville
  • Sahara Nyathi, Halifax


  • Nathan King-Pacis, Hammonds Plains


  • Claire Campbell, St. Margart's Bay 
  • Minuet Charron, Halifax
  • Gabrielle Kachan, Halifax, NS Arts Endowment Fund Scholarship
  • Camryn Rieksts, Valley


  • Lucy Boyne, Halifax

Creative Nonfiction

  • Sara Leslie, Dartmouth, NS Arts Endowment Fund Scholarship 

Creative Writing/Fiction

  • Vicki Donkin, Halifax 


  • K.R. Byggdin, Halifax
  • Amanda Peters, Falmouth 

Short Fiction/Prose

  • Sidney Robichaud, Halifax

Brass - French Horn

  • Mimisu Lee, Halifax

Brass - Trombone

  • Ross Macintosh, Truro


  • Taylor MacGillivray, Halifax

Gaelic Culture/Fiddle

  • Abby Hanson, Montague Gold Mines
  • Ella Hanson, Montague Gold Mines 

Keyboard - Piano

  • Jenny Chen, Halifax
  • Sherry Chen, Hammonds Plains
  • Devin Huang, Bedford
  • Lala Lee, Halifax
  • Carmen Peng, Wolfville
  • Andrew Son, Halifax
  • Alex Yang, Bedford

Music Technology

  • Cassie Mann, New Glasgow


  • Lucas Goudie, Halifax 

Strings - Cello

  • India Gailey, Halifax, NS Arts Endowment Fund Scholarship
  • Priscilla Lee, Bedford

Strings - Violia

  • Leo Hanada, Halifax
  • Rose Hanada, Halifax


  • Dane Pedersen, Millville 

Voice - Opera

  • Nicholas Higgs, New Glasgow
  • Laura Johnston, Prospect Bay
  • Natalie Mitchell, Halifax
  • Nicole Ross, New Glasgow
  • Abigail Sinclair, Halifax
  • Shanice Skinner, New Glasgow
  • Anisa Sobhani, Dartmouth

Woodwind - Flute

  • Amelia Bruce, Dartmouth


  • Kevin Munroe, Sydney
  • Rebecca Wolfe, Dartmouth 

Musical Theatre

  • Emma Davidson, Halifax
  • Zachary Ellis, Truro
  • Olivia Grund, Truro
  • Madelaine Hanley, Dartmouth
  • Saffron Hyde, Bedford
  • Ryan MacDougall, Hammonds Plains
  • Brooke Mitchell, Beaverbank
  • Jillian Peters, Dartmouth, NS Arts Endowment Fund Scholarship
  • Katherine Shore, Halifax

Applied Craft/Architecture

  • Charles Bourne, Halifax 

Interdisciplinary/Computation Arts

  • Jonah McKay, Canning, NS Arts Endowment Fund Scholarship 


  • Madeleine West, Halifax


  • Fraya McDougall, Fall River 

Painting/Drawing (Digital Graphite)

  • Willa Fisher, Halifax

Textiles Art

  • Pamela Juarez, Halifax


  • Ada Denil, Halifax

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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

A reading and reflections from K.R. Byggdin


Thank you to Talent Trust scholarship recipient and writer K.R. Byggdin, for sharing their touching work with us! And for also sharing their reflections on their art.

K.R. Byggdin grew up on the Prairies and now calls K’jipuktuk (Halifax) home. Their writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Grain, The Antigonish Review, The Quilliad, The Trinity Review, and several anthologies. They are currently studying Creative Writing and English Literature at Dalhousie University.
Reading Description:
This reading is excerpted from a short story called “Home,” which won the Sheldon Currie Fiction Prize and was published in issue 195 of The Antigonish Review. 
My partner and I moved to Nova Scotia in 2015, and I was struck by the subtle differences between visiting as a tourist and coming here to live. 

One day as we were driving from Halifax to Yarmouth to visit family, the line about black versus pink milk cartons popped into my head and I just started to jot down ideas on my phone. It ended up becoming my first published piece, and I still resonate with the tensions and themes of this narrative today.

What are your earliest memories of your art?

I’ve been interested in storytelling from a very young age. My earliest efforts at writing involved a lot of “fanfic,” retellings of Franklin the Turtle or Star Wars. This kind of copycat writing could only take me so far, though. After one particularly bossy backyard production of The Little Mermaid in which I served as playwright, director, and performed several of the (best) parts, my cousins declared they never wanted to play dress up with me again! 

It wasn’t until after high school when I read A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews that it hit me: I didn’t have to imitate anyone else. The stories I wrote could be rooted in my personal geography and experience. That was a real game changer for me.

How have you managed practicing your art during the pandemic?

First and foremost, any kind of structure or schedule had to go out the window. At the start of the pandemic I was often beating myself up for not writing every day because I had all this “free time.” But of course, that was nonsense. Battling constant anxiety and uncertainty uses up a lot of energy. 

It’s so important to be kind to yourself and give yourself room to grieve these changes and zone out for a bit when needed. Interestingly, it was only once I let the idea of a consistent writing schedule go that I felt free to be creative again. I’m only writing when I feel up to it right now and I have produced a couple of stories I’m really proud of. But I’m also trying to go gently, to listen to myself when I’ve had enough and just veg out with a couple episodes of The Great Canadian Baking Show.

Who are your mentors and how have they influenced your art and/or career?

I’m currently working on a novel, and last year I was incredibly fortunate to participate in both the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia’s Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program with Jacqueline Dumas and the Banff Centre’s Emerging Writers Intensive with Joshua Whitehead. 

Jacqui pushed me deeper into my story and helped me to fully enter the headspace of my characters and the world they were inhabiting. She didn’t hold back on her critiques or her encouragements, and I left the WFNS program with a novel that was lightyears beyond the first draft I developed on my own.

With Josh I was able to flesh out my protagonist more, focussing on embodying his emotions with physical actions and crafting dialogue to pull readers into a moment. Our time together was brief, but I learned so much from him and my fellow cohort of emerging writers that will stick with me always. I am so grateful and humbled by the mentorship and care Jacqui and Josh showed me and my work.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years, in relation to your art?

Well I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’d love to get a book-length project published at some point! But I also want to continually grow as a writer and creative person, wherever those opportunities arise. 
There are so many writers in Canada producing absolutely astounding work right now—Catherine Hernandez, Casey Plett, Zalika Reid-Benta, Katherena Vermette, truly the list goes on—and I feel I learn so much about the craft of storytelling by reading and sitting with their work. 

Every time I submit to a literary magazine it’s a learning experience, whether my work is accepted or, much more frequently, rejected. I’ve attended some really great workshops with WFNS that helped me get a sense of all the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into being a writer outside of the writing itself. 

I’m also grateful for the support of the Nova Scotia Talent Trust as I go back to school to study creative writing. Overall, in the next five years and beyond, I want to deepen my understanding of how to write authentically and courageously. 

As a queer and non-binary writer, I also want to put more stories out into the world that will resonate with and better represent people like me.

Social Media:
@krbyggdin (Instagram)

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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Carmen Peng: Piano is not just a hobby, it is a passion!

We can't thank Talent Trust recipient Carmen Peng enough for taking the time to share with us a bit about what piano means to her, what her memories are of music and more!

Carmen Peng is a 15-year-old pianist and organist from Nova Scotia, Canada. She started piano at age four and currently studies with Professor John Hansen. Carmen has won major awards in many competitions including first place at NSRMTA Scholarship Competition, first place at Great Composers International Competition: Music of the 20th Century and winning Colin Winter MacIntosh Bach Memorial Award from Kiwanis Music Festival. At Annapolis Valley Music Festival, Carmen has won Acadia University Rose Bowl, Hester Jackson Baroque Award five times, Most Outstanding Pianist, Herbin Bowl, Senior Piano, Vocal under 14 and Chamber Ensemble Award. She has performed for Wolfville Mayor’s Levee, the Canadian Prime Minister, Ted Ex events and was recognized by Nova Scotia Assembly for her musicianship. 

Carmen is an avid volunteer and plays for her school’s Jazz Band and Choir. She placed first at Start it Up as an entrepreneur, and is an organist for numerous churches. Carmen is currently a Finalist for Great Composers International Competition: Rising Stars of America and will play at Carnegie Hall for her first-place win from American Protege International Piano and Strings Competition in December 2020.

What are your earliest memories of your art?
When I was younger, my mother would play classical music in the house as she was cleaning, cooking, relaxing, etc. and I would always listen along with her. I loved listening to Chopin since his lyrical melodies and fast runs made me want to learn the piano and play his music. I started lessons at the age of five and I can remember it took my piano teacher nearly a month to teach me a basic C major since I could never get the correct fingering. It was so hard! Thankfully, after ten years, I can play it.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years, in relation to your art?
Piano is not just a hobby: it is a passion. It has played a crucial part in my life - bringing me undeniable joy and delight and it increased my self-esteem. As a high schooler, I hope to complete my RCM ARCT Diploma in the next two years and continue my piano studies at university. In the future, I would like to pursue a career as a classical pianist or piano professor to teach others the joy that the piano can bring. 

What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

My biggest accomplishment I can proudly brag is that I was fortunate to join the One Minute Flashcard Club my piano teacher founded. This club is for novice pianists who are learning how to read notes and identify said notes on the keyboard. There are a bunch of cards with notes ranging from both clefs that you must complete under one minute. If you do, you are able to join, and if not, sorry. I was very proud of that accomplishment since not everyone was able to join. I practiced so much that after the audition (you can only do it once), I threw the cards away. I was five and now ten years later, I feel like an alumnus, which is giving me more bragging rights.

What has been your greatest challenge in relation to your art? Why?
I do not have a good ear. In a literal sense, I constantly have to ask people to repeat what they said since I cannot hear. But in my music studies, it means that I have trouble identifying chords and melody playback when it comes to RCM exams. I'm fine with intervals - thank goodness for songs like Happy Birthday, O Christmas Tree, etc. - however, being able to identify chords and play melodies you hear thrice? It has been my greatest challenge. I don't know why, but the rest of my siblings have excellent ears and I'm pretty sure they have perfect pitch. I've practiced and practiced so much but my ears and brain cannot tell the difference between a triad and a first inversion triad. I'm better at visuals like memorization than aural.

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