Chatham’s Justin Steele is climbing the bagpiping ladder
13-year-old Chatham resident Justin Steele - Aaron Hall Photo
By Aaron Hall – Daily Post Editor
13-year-old Chatham resident Justin Steele has been playing bagpipes for nearly three years. The soon-to-be Grade 9 student at John McGregor Secondary School might need an extra locker to store his growing collection of medals, awards and accolades stemming from this passion.
“I like winning,” said the Chatham teen, who attended Indian Creek Public School. “When you start playing, it just feels fun. I don’t know what else to say, but it is just really fun for me.”
Steele has been having fun by doing a lot of winning in his short stint on the pipes, and most recently he brought home two gold medals from the Solo Championships in the Grade 3 Light division at the North American Solo and Pipe Band Championships held in Maxville, Ontario just east of Ottawa.
Steele said his interest in playing the bagpipes came when he and his family took a trip to Scotland in 2006.
“We saw a bagpiper playing on the street… and it was the only time I had ever seen a bagpiper live,” he told the Chatham-Kent Daily Post. “I thought it would be really cool to try.”
Since then he has never looked back.
Steele started playing with the pipe band at the Royal Canadian Legion Br. 28 in Chatham, and currently performs with the London Fire Fighters Pipe Band in London, Ontario.
He receives training instructions from a former World Champion bagpiper, John Cairns, also from London.
After winning numerous awards from different Highland Games across Ontario, Steele was awarded a scholarship to the National Piping Centre in Glasgow, Scotland. Steele will attend the facility this October for a full week of instruction.
“I’ll be getting lessons for 12 hours a day from the best in the world,” Steele said. “It’s going to help with sharpening my technique and competition tuning.”
Steele’s father, Mike said the training his son will receive would be “like hockey players getting training from Wayne Gretzky.”
The Chatham teen said he hopes to continue improving his skills and ultimately have the opportunity to compete at the Open Piping Championships, which holds tournaments in Scotland, New Jersey and other places around the world.