Natasha Hoskins

Natasha Hoskins

The beat goes on

Two Nanaimo high school students the first female drummers to win national awards

Thanks to women of previous generations, millions of Canadian girls grow up knowing they can do or be whatever they choose.

They can be businesswomen, carpenters, caregivers or artists – so no one told Natasha Hoskins or Rachel Skeeles they couldn’t be drummers in their high school band.

The Grade 12 and 11 students, respectively, won top drummer awards at MusicFest Canada, the national music festival and competition in Ottawa last week.

Hoskins won Outstanding Combo Drummer Award while Skeeles took home Outstanding Drumset Player Award – the first time female students won drum awards. It’s also the first time students from the same school won top drummer awards.

“I don’t know why it’s a guy’s instrument,” Skeeles said. “You don’t need to be aggressive to play the drums.”

Rock and metal bands often have a certain type of drummer as part of the image – one that’s not always accurate for music, said Hoskins.

“You don’t have to have huge muscles or tattoos,” she said.

The awards came with a set of four Zildjian A custom cymbals with case.

Although they don’t have many female role models ahead of them, they do see younger female drummers coming behind them.

“It seems like it’s just getting popular in our generation,” Skeeles said.

Hoskins agreed, adding, “It’s exciting that there’s more of us out there.”

Hoskins took up the drums in Grade 9, when another student graduated and left a spot in the percussion section open.

“I said to Carmella [Luvisotto, Welling band teacher], I think I could do this,” Hoskins said. “I watched the other drummers in the school and I just fell in love with it.”

For Skeeles, it’s her third instrument. She said the Nanaimo music community is supportive, such as teacher and musician James McCrae.

The young women also benefit by travelling to events like MusicFest or the Idaho Jazz Festival where they see top-notch performers from across the continent.

Skeeles has another year to decide what to do after graduation, and while music will always be part of her life, her career interest lies elsewhere.

“I like a lot of things,” she said. “I’m really passionate about the environment.”

Hoskins, however, is going to take full advantage of a partial scholarship to Capilano College that she won at the Kelowna Jazz Festival to study music.

Both encourage more young women to try out the drums.

“You never really know what’s going to happen,” Hoskins said.

More Wellington students picked up awards at MusicFest, including:

McCartie Combo, Manns Quartet, Gunn-Rey Duo and Senior Jazz Band won gold;

Grade 11 tenor sax player Josh Rey won a scholarship to the Douglas College Summer Jazz Intensive;

Grade 12 vocalist Amy McCartie, Hoskins and Skeeles received $1,000 scholarships to Humber College in Toronto;

McCartie, who also plays baritone saxophone, received a $1,000 scholarship to Vancouver Island University and was also selected prior to the competition to play in the Yamaha All Star Band.

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