One of Keltie Mierins fondest childhood memories is of sitting in her family's New Edinburgh living room while her uncle played piano to the delight of gathered relatives.
"I remember those times as being very special and I think I developed my affinity for classical piano from those early days," notes the accomplished Ottawa native who earned a Masters degree from Oxford University before settling back in Canada to raise a family with her husband, John.
Yet, while she loved listening to the piano, playing was not her forte. "I took lessons, but I hated practicing," she ruefully admits. "Of course, I regret it to this day."
So when Keltie was approached to join the board of the Honens International Piano Competition (www.honens.ca), the opportunity to help discover, nurture and launch the careers of some of the world's most exceptional piano talents proved irresistible.
Keltie is now Chair of the Ottawa Laureate Circle which provides Honens Competition winners - known as laureates -with access to the homes and embassy residences of some of Ottawa's most dedicated music lovers. This allows the laureates to showcase their musical talent while learning to play in front of an audience.
"What I really like about Honens is that it doesn't just offer prize money, but also artistic and career development," says Keltie. "It's a three-year partnership with the laureates that takes them through all of the steps necessary to become a successful concert pianist."
It's obviously a winning formula, because laureates sing the praises of the Honens organization. "It has provided me with wonderful opportunities," affirms 2009 laureate Gilles Vonsattel, who notes with great pride that one of his next concerts is at London's celebrated Wigmore Hall.
Past laureate Hinrich Alpers goes even further. "Having been supported by Honens has given my life a different turn that I surely would have never experienced otherwise. My affiliation with Honens has opened doors both in Canada and back in Europe, and this was not only during the three years of the Honens career development program but far beyond that."
But it's Keltie's personal touch that has struck a chord with the young visiting musicians. "Keltie is a wonderful and warm person and without her my Honens experience would not have been thinkable at all," says Alpers.
And while that kind of tribute is music to Keltie's ears, her biggest source of pride is watching the young Honens laureates achieve their dreams, delighting music lovers everywhere in the process.
Catherine Clark is the host of Beyond Politics on CPAC.