Tina, Don, and Carter MacNeil

Carter-MacNeil Tina-Don-Carter-MacNeil

Anyone who frequents the Halifax Waterfront or the Seaport Farmers Market will recognize this bright little face. Carter MacNeil loves performing with his tiny violin and at age three has already achieved an element of local celebrity. Carter’s dad is Don MacNeil, Director of the Faculty of Engineering at Saint Mary’s University, and his mom, Tina, works from home as an artist. The whole family is involved in nurturing Carter’s love of music.

Busking has him regularly out and about with his parents in all kinds of venues and festivals – wherever he can find a gathering of music lovers. Carter jumps at the chance to play with featured performers and has on occasion been invited to share the stage with the likes of McGinty, Dave MacIsaac, and even Symphony Nova Scotia.

Carter ‘s best experience (so far) with Symphony Nova Scotia was at the Family Series concert last year at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

“He was right up there with the orchestra playing along,” says Tina.”The conductor made Carter welcome, and at the end, even thanked him personally for joining in the performance. The violinist, Isabelle Fournier, came over and talked to us after the concert. She said Carter reminded her of herself as a child. She always wanted a violin, and when she finally got one at age three, she remembers taking it to bed and sleeping with it.”

The Family Series concerts are a hit with the whole family.

“It’s definitely kid- friendly,”says Don. “You don’t worry if your children clap their hands and make noise… Very relaxed and low-stress for parents.”

“You are made to feel welcome,” says Tina. “It’s a nice, relaxing atmosphere to take in some high culture, and a real treat to enjoy an orchestra with your child.”

As for Carter, he loved the chance to see and hear all the different instruments up close, and was still talking about that when they got home. When asked what it was like playing with the Orchestra, he simply said, “Good.”

Don talked about why music is so important for the MacNeil family.

“I grew up with music – there were five children in our family and everyone played an instrument (piano, woodwind, brass). Carter has quite a few relatives that are into music. As an adult, I played sax and clarinet in the Reserves, so music helped pay for my university education. It was a big part of growing up, and I want Carter to experience the pleasure of playing music.”

“It’s a gift for Carter to be able to create this imaginary space,” adds Tina. “He becomes the creator of his own little musical world… and when he performs he’s able to share it with other people.

“We don’t watch a lot of TV. Screen time is limited, so music is Carter’s main entertainment at home. We started collecting instruments so there are plenty at his disposal: guitar, ukulele, bongos, piano, violin, shaker, and recorder. He has started taking music lessons and we want to make sure there is lots of hands-on and it’s fun for him.”

Carter has also participated in the Symphony’s Musical Munchkins program at the Captain William Spry Library.

“It’s usually packed with about 30 kids and two musicians with different instruments, says Tina. “Last time was an English horn and a Clarinet. It’s really interactive – a lot of singing and games. Carter loved it. We’re also going to Pop goes the Easel in April. I have an arts background and I’m really looking forward to that.

“When I think of the Symphony I think professional and entertaining,” says Tina. “And it’s a delightful surprise that at the same time, the musicians are so casual, friendly, and approachable… It’s so easy to reach out to them.”

Watch this short clip of Carter playing with the Symphony (thanks to classicconcertsns.ca)!