Troy MacGillivray:
a piano teacher's dream

As a child, Troy MacGillivray was every piano teacher's dream.

"I'd come home from school and play for two hours straight with party tapes," he said. "I loved playing piano so much."

Troy, now 25, has just released his third CD, Eleven. Ironically, he plays piano on this one only to support his fiddling, which is the primary focus of the disc.

His eldest sister, Kendra, is the fiddler of the family, Troy said. "It was just natural to go for piano because Kendra was playing fiddle," he said. "I don't really remember it even being an issue." His own fiddling was more of an at-home hobby until one day in 2002 he was invited to perform at the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou. Since then, he's focused equally on piano and fiddle, although he still considers himself foremost a pianist.

Growing up in the MacGillivray household with Kendra and middle sister Sabra, music was a constant influence, he recalled.

"Everything we did was around music," he said. "Lessons. Going to concerts. Every weekend was a Highland dance competition. I never watched TV -- I still don't. The only way I know what's going on is when I'm sick and lay around on the couch."

Troy started university with a plan to earn a degree in information systems, "but it just wasn't suitable for me," he said. So he switched to music and his career path was set.

The path to date has been something of a constant evolution, he noted. On his first CD, he primarily played piano with a little fiddle, while his second was a half and half split. "This one is all fiddle," he said. "I did all the piano, too, but only as backup."

He also brought in several musical collaborators, friends from the United States and overseas. Still, his most frequent collaborators are still sisters Kendra and Sabra.

"We're totally comfortable with each other," Troy said. "We kind of know what each other is thinking. It's easy to work when you know what's going on in each other's heads."

Of course, Kendra and Sabra were both on hand for Troy's CD release party, which was held Thursday night at the Festival Club during Cape Breton's famed Celtic Colours festival. To celebrate, he rocked through several sets -- first with Betty Lou Beaton on keyboards, Tom Daniels on guitar and Cheryl Smith on drums, then with Damien O'Kane on guitar and Nuala Kennedy on flute.

When Troy fiddles, it's hard to believe he's anything but a fiddler. But he erased all doubts later, when he took over the piano for a massive blast of tunes from fiddlers Andrea Beaton, Kinnon Beaton, Kimberley Fraser, Gabrielle MacLellan and sister Kendra, plus Tom Daniels on guitar, Cheryl Smith on drums, and sister Sabra on bodhran and stepdancing.

However, on the very day Eleven was released, Troy was already planning his next move.

"I'm switching gears pretty soon," he explained. "I'm going to start working on a full-on piano CD. ... The piano is still my first instrument."

After three self-produced discs, he's planning to hire a producer for the next one, he added. "I'm going to try to let someone else have some influence," he said. "But it's hard to give up control."

by Tom Knapp
29 October 2005

[ visit Troy's website ]