Name: Eamonn O’Keeffe
Employer: The Fort York Guard run by the non-profit The Friends of Fort York
Job Title: Drummer
What are the regular tasks for your job?
I don the uniform of a War of 1812 drummer at Fort York in downtown Toronto throughout the summer months. The Fort York Guard, composed of high school and university students, represents the Canadian Regiment of Fencible Infantry circa 1814-1816. We perform in daily music, musket and artillery demonstrations throughout July and August at Canada’s best-preserved War of 1812 outpost. The Guard helps the public step back in time and experience the past.
What is the best part of your job?
I enjoy making the past come to life. Every day the Fort York Guard helps visitors, from toddlers to seniors, get excited about our heritage by offering a window into Canadian history.
At Fort York, I have interacted and bonded with people of all ages through a shared interest in the past. Beginning as the youngest member of the Fife and Drum Corps, I quickly found myself at home in an environment of teamwork, support and camaraderie.
Working in the Fort York Guard is invariably exciting and stimulating. I’m always learning something new, whether expanding my repertoire of drum beatings, discovering more information about the past or mastering new instruments such as the fife or the bugle.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
This job, which involves wearing woollen uniforms in the summer months, can sometimes prove physically demanding. Working in a fife and drum corps also requires exceptional cooperation. Accuracy and precision are essential; members work together and depend upon each other to keep in step and on tempo. Looking and sounding sharp requires constant practice. Yet, after weeks of rehearsals, it’s exhilarating to see our hard work pay off in a big performance.
How did you get interested in history?
I have been fascinated with history from a young age. I enjoy exploring the stories of previous generations and investigating how the past has shaped the present.
My passion for history led me to begin volunteering with the Fort York Fife and Drum Corps at age nine. After learning 19th century military drills and music, I was eventually offered a full-time summer job. My involvement with the Guard has inspired me to further explore, study and promote history. Last year, I collaborated with my summer co-workers to create an award-winning student film about the War of 1812.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in a similar job?
My advice would be to contact your local museum or heritage village to see if they are offering jobs or accepting living history volunteers. I’m sure you’ll find that raising awareness for Canadian history is a rewarding endeavour!
If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area, consider applying to the Fort York Summer Guard. We hire high school and university students for our Fife and Drum Corps and Infantry Squad. All the necessary equipment and training is provided. Learn more at our website FortYork.ca under “Featured Attractions”.
I urge middle school and high school students to join our Fife and Drum Corps Volunteer Program. We’re always looking for boys and girls with an interest in music or history. No prior musical experience is required. Please send enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!