Playing a tune to earn an education

If you pass a young man with an odd-looking bagpipe playing a Macedonian tune on the boardwalk, you might consider pitching in a few dollars to contribute to his education. Stefan Nicoloff, who grew up on Osborne Avenue, has been piping for tuition this summer after picking up a busking permit from the city, hoping to help offset some of the debt he will incur when he attends Christie’s Education in London, England, this September, to study a Master’s in Modern and Contemporary Art.

Nicoloff attended Williamson Road, Glen Ames and Malvern before graduating in 2010 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Ontario College of Art and Design. In 2011 he graduated from the Nipissing University Teacher Education program.

Although Nicoloff works on contract at an LCBO outlet downtown, he supplements that job with income from playing the Gaida, a Macedonian bagpipe made from goat skin, boxwood and water buffalo horn. He picked up the instrument about five years ago. He is self-taught, a necessity as there are only two other players in the GTA that he knows of.

Nicoloff’s grandparents immigrated to Canada from what was the Ottoman Empire at the time. One day while playing, he encountered an older man who recognized the song he was playing. After stopping to talk, he realized the man had grown up down the street from his grandparents’ former home.

Beacher Stefan Nicoloff plays the Gaida on the boardwalk, hoping to offset tuition costs. PHOTO: Jon Muldoon / Beach Metro News

Busking is more a labour of love than a ticket to riches, Nicoloff explained.

“On a good day I’ll make about the same as minimum wage,” he said. However, playing the Gaida in public has other benefits, and Nicoloff said he’s happy “as long as I get to meet four or five people and have a couple good conversations.”

When asked how close he was to paying for his tuition – roughly $34,000 CDN – Nicoloff laughed and said, “not close at all.”

Although not everyone has money to contribute, he’s hoping that some of the people that have taken photos and video will be willing to share those. To upload pictures or movies, visit Nicoloff’s facebook page at, or find him on twitter @ThePipersFund.

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I am looking for someone to pipe my daughter into her wedding recption in Toronto. Do you do this or can you sugest someone? The wedding is Nov 3 2012.

Tom Angelidis

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