Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy

Joint honorary Doctor of Laws degrees are conferred upon Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy for their internationally-recognized musical achievements, for being ambassadors for traditional East Coast Canadian music, and for their role in the Peterborough area’s musical community.

Natalie MacMasterCape Breton fiddling sensation Natalie MacMaster is well-known to international audiences, recognized for being one of Canada’s major musical talents and an ambassador for traditional East Coast music. Renowned for her passionate fiddling, energetic step dance, and unique fusion of traditional and groundbreaking styles, she is credited with lifting the art of fiddling to its contemporary prominence.

Born in Inverness County, Nova Scotia, Ms. MacMaster started playing the fiddle at age nine and quickly gained recognition winning numerous awards for her early traditional recordings. She gives credit to her successful emergence in the 1990s to a documentary called, The Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler, which led to a revival in this most dynamic of musical cultures, encouraging several young musicians to be inspired by the contagious rebirth of East Coast music.

Ms. MacMaster has won two Juno Awards, including Best Instrumental Album, and eleven East Coast Music Awards, in addition to several Canadian Country Awards for Fiddler of the Year. In 2000, she was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Traditional Folk Album category and in 2006, Ms. MacMaster became one of the youngest people ever named to the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour.

Donnell LeahyDonnell Leahy is the oldest brother of the internationally-acclaimed family musical group Leahy and is considered one of the best fiddlers in the world. He is known for bringing genuine, spontaneous and spectacular energy and excitement to his music. Together with his siblings, he has brought traditional Celtic music to audiences worldwide and played a major role in the Peterborough area’s musical community.

The Leahy family grew up on a farm in nearby Lakefield, Ontario where Mr. Leahy and his siblings played music from a young age. Among his many achievements with the group, Mr. Leahy won three Juno Awards including Best Country Group or Duo in 1998, and an award for Best Instrumental Group and Best New Group in 2007.

In 1989, Mr. Leahy was Artist in Residence at Trent University, during which time he had the opportunity to inspire Trent students and share his knowledge and opinions of the history and future of music as well as his world-renowned fiddling. He continues to perpetuate his passion for Celtic music through his development of a summer music camp in the Kawarthas for young aspiring musicians.

As a couple, Mr. Leahy and Ms. MacMaster continue to spread excitement and popularity of East Coast and Celtic music throughout the world.

Trent University is proud to present its highest honour to Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy for their musical achievements and contributions to music and culture both locally in the Peterborough area and around the world.