Most teens play a sport. They throw balls and get teeth knocked out. Others play musical instruments in a school band, blowing into the same type of instrument as half a dozen other kids around them.

They do not, for the most part, do anything or plan to do anything having to do with Scottish heritage. Which may sound kind of random (especially for teens who aren't Scottish), but for Melanie and Elise Roy, it is a major part of their lives.

"Our grandfather came to the United States with a couple of his siblings, some of which are still in the U.K.," said Melanie, a sophomore at City Honors. "He was 18 when he came for a job in the 1960s. He had our mom a few years later."

This was the beginning of not just a new life, but the remembrance of a life left behind in Scotland for American generations to come.

"I started Scottish dancing when I was 9 because of my cousin, Christine Brooks," said Elise, a senior at Nichols School. "I saw my other cousin at a competition and thought it was really cool. I started at a studio and just got hooked."

While the dancing is fun, it can sometimes be tough for Elise and her family.

"I really enjoy dancing, but I sometimes have to get up at 5 for competitions at 8 in the morning," Elise admitted. "It is also sometimes tough, too, because I go to McMaster School of Highland Dance at Niagara-on-the-Lake [Ont.], which is 45 minutes away, but I just love it so much. It's hard for my parents, but I think that my mom secretly enjoys it."

Elise performs at about seven different dance competitions each year, along with several festivals and some performances at nursing homes.

"My favorite part is just to perform," Elise said. "I love it, I feel like we are all so goofy and close, and it is such a good time and just fun being Scottish."

The sisters have had to travel a lot to keep up with their heritage, and have made a lot of friends and bonded with many family members. Elise especially travels a lot due to the number of competitions that she participates in.

"I went to New Hampshire with my studio a few years ago, and it was a really good bonding time," Elise said.

Back in 2008 the sisters, along with several family members, traveled to Scotland to visit an aunt.

"It's pretty cool to have family in the U.K., just to go far away to visit," said Melanie. "Scotland is really beautiful, and we got to visit family there."

"It is very, very green," Elise said. "My favorite city was Edinburgh; there was so much history, and it's haunting in a good way, and was such a good experience.

"Hopefully I'll go to Scotland next year with my studio. They go to a vacation place called the Caravan and stay at a clubhouse on the site. They went to different dance competitions, games and sightseeing. I really want to go next year. I only got to dance for the family last trip, which was still really fun," she said.

>Around the pipes

Melanie pays tribute to her Scottish heritage in a different way than her sister. She plays the bagpipes.

"Elise was originally asked to play the chanter, but she was already dancing. So I started with my cousin, Caitlyn, and have never regretted it. It's really difficult sometimes, but really fun," Melanie said. "I was young when I started, so I didn't know the history. But when I kept playing I learned more of the background and stuck with it."

The chanter, which is similar to a recorder, is the first step to learning how to play the bagpipes, and Melanie began when she was 10 years old.

"The bagpipes are really hard to play because of the air regulation. You first practice on the chanter to remember [the music] and then you go to bagpipes where you have to worry about how hard you have to play and the tuning" Melanie said. "It is hard to keep everything regulated. It's difficult, but so is any musical instrument."

As Melanie continued to play, she became more and more interested in the history and culture of Scotland.

"The Scottish heritage is pretty interesting," she said. "For school we had to do this project, and I learned from Elise how to do a highland fling because I found the history of the dances interesting [along with] how they affected the history of Scotland."

While Melanie doesn't compete, she still finds ways to show off her Scottish skills.

"About two years ago, I played my chanter for the winter concert at school alone. It was really nerve-racking," she said.

The sisters agree that they will continue learning about and paying tribute to their heritage throughout the rest of their lives.

"I definitely will continue because it is a big commitment and I don't want to quit halfway through," said Melanie. "It is fun, but it's not the only thing you can do. You can make money by playing for weddings," she added, laughing.

"I'm definitely going to continue [as well]," said Elise. "I applied to (the College of) Wooster, which has Scottish dancing as a club. It won't go away for me, I love it too much."


Alissa Roy is a junior at Springville-Griffith Institute.