Catherine Olive, or “Kinoly” as she is known in these parts, was born and raised in Alexandria on the family farm at MacPhee’s bridge. She grew up understanding that the combination of family, friends and music is the essence of a good life!
Kinoly began learning to play piano from her mother, Mary Frances MacPhee, and was encouraged by her father, Donald Edward MacPhee, who praised even her earliest attempts. As a child, Kinoly watched her mother play piano and accompany many violinists, sometimes having to sit in and play herself. She has commented many times how fortunate she feels to have grown up in home full of music and love.
Kinoly began formal music lessons at seven years of age with Sr. St. Rose and the Holy Cross nuns in Alexandria. She continued formal lessons until the completion of high school, by which time she had been to the Kinsmen Music Festival in Cornwall twice, receiving the gold medal her first time and third prize her second time. Kinoly completed Grade VIII music and Grade II Theory and Harmony at the Royal Conservatory of Music. At graduation, her high school principal, Mr. J. T. Smith, encouraged Kinoly to study Music Education in University. She had decided to pursue a different profession however, and graduated as a Registered Nurse. She continued to play piano through the years as she nursed, married, and began to raise her young family of two daughters.
Eventually, she was able to put more time into her music, and in November, 1977, was one of the founding members of the Glengarry Strathspey and Reel Society. Kinoly very much enjoys the role of accompanist for the group and is thankful for the opportunities it has given her to be a part of the many wonderful events and to play with many talented people over the years.
In the early 1980s, Kinoly began teaching piano lessons in her home and in the local schools. She quickly realized the key to keeping young people enthused about music – let them learn to play the music they like! Soon all types of music including jazz, top 40, and Scottish, of course could be heard coming from the piano room! Kinoly developed a great reputation and her calendar filled to capacity. She taught private, half-hour lessons for almost fifteen years and in that time had taught close to a hundred students. Her goal was to teach the children to enjoy music for a lifetime and is thrilled to hear that many of them are still involved with music in some way to this day. Some volunteer their musical talents regularly; others have made music their career. Mission accomplished.
Over the years, Kinoly has had the opportunity to accompany well-known violinists such as her uncle, John Angus MacDonald, Rev. John MacPhail, Donald MacLellan, Ron Gonella, Buddy MacMaster, Dwayne Cote, Winnie Chafe, Wilfred Gillis, Edna MacMillan and many more! She considers the highest compliment to be, when a surprised and pleased Buddy MacMaster exclaimed, “Boy, you can really keep up!” She is always very honoured to accompany these people, but equally honoured to play with her talented family, friends and grandchildren at local events and family gatherings. It is safe to say that the question she most likes to hear at these times is, “Will we have a few tunes?”
As she has done for many years, Catherine Olive continues to volunteer her time and share her musical talents within the community; the delight on her face as she plays is a strong indication that she enjoys every minute of it.