An air evacuation nurse with the Canadian forces deployed to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center as part of the casualty support team recently visited children at Smith Elementary School on Smith Barracks but instead of focusing on her job Capt. Denise Olson talked to the children about bagpipes.
“I’m here today at the school because I’m actually instructing three of the teachers here on how to play the bagpipes,” Olson said.
Her talent is in high demand wherever she goes, especially during holidays like Memorial Day or Veterans Day.
“(Veterans Day is) a very busy day for me for piping, so I asked the teachers if they would like me to come and speak to the children a little bit about this day and about poppies and why it’s kind of a special day,” she said.
Dressed in her kilt and piping uniform, Olson fielded questions from the children about everything from what was inside the “bag” to what the decorations on her uniform were. Of course, she also played for the children who were surprised to learn how loud the pipes sounded in their school
Olson has been playing the pipes for 35 years and says that her hobby actually paid for her college and nursing school. For six summers she had a job on the Cabot Trail, a tourist location in Nova Scotia.
“I didn’t have to look for any other job. That was my job, eight to nine hours a day, playing the bagpipes for visitors to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, and it paid for university and nursing school,” she said.
She became interested in bag piping through highland dancing when she was 7 years old.
“At the age of 10 I thought, well, I’m already dancing to the music, I’d like to learn how to play it,” she said.
Olson comes from a very musical family. Her father plays several instruments and so do her uncles.
“I’d already started to take piano so I was very interested in music. It has been fantastic,” Olson said.
Olson has been in Germany for six months and will be flying back to Canada soon. Reflecting on her career and time in Germany she said, “I’ve been in the military for 22 years and I’ll see what happens when I go back. It’s been a fantastic deployment and I’ve been very fortunate to be in Germany and to have the opportunity to continue my piping. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to speak to the children today about the bagpipes and about Veterans Day or Remembrance Day in the common wealth, and its significance.”