‘I couldn’t imagine my existence without it’

How important are the arts in a child’s upbringing?

In speaking to a number of educators and arts professionals involved with kids, not surprisingly, the importance of having the arts as a part of a child’s upbringing was mentioned again and again.

There are hard statistics to substantiate the advantages music has on a child’s development. For instance, Claire Marshall, chair of Orkidstra, notes that clinical research shows how the developing brain can be positively affected by music, helping to make interconnections which are absent in those who have not been exposed to music. For Claire, choral music was the ticket where she found a convivial place of friendship and acceptance that kept her in good company well into adulthood.


Some kids know what they want from an early age. Clea Iveson, education manager with Canada’s Ballet Jorgen/George Brown Dance wanted to dance “more than anything else in the world – I couldn’t imagine my existence without it.” She also realized this desire necessitated discipline and independence to keep doing it, giving her skills for life in the process. As an education manager, she both actively and subtly imparts to parents and kids alike to use dance for the “more” it gives.


There are other children who haven’t any idea about what to do with themselves whether in the arts or anywhere else. Robert Farrell, a guitar teacher, recording artist, and singer-songwriter has worked with kids whose parents have been anxious to anchor them somewhere. School has sometimes been a challenge. Playing guitar has given them a focus and something to work toward since reading music and playing an instrument at the same time can be difficult. Farrell says that in some rare cases, taking lessons has “turned the student around” from not knowing where they were going to having a purpose.


Marie Kusters, owner of KinderMusik Mieke Musike Music Studio, was brought up in a musical home with eight siblings and two pianos. This early exposure and subsequent musical studies led Marie to her present profession, but have also shown her that music builds strong family bonds for emotional security. It also promotes “empathy and noble hearts” as children develop sensitivity in a musically shared environment.  

Though neither parents were musicians, museums and concerts served to whet the appetite of Julian Armour, artistic and executive director of Music and Beyond and artistic and executive director of The Chamber Players of Canada. For Armour, outings provided the stimulation and eventual foray into the arts for the now-professional cellist and arts director.

She was just over a year old, when she was placed on the piano in her baby seat as her mother taught lessons. Guylaine Lemaire, executive director of Thirteen Strings and artistic director of the CAMMAC Music Centre remembers going to the Montreal Arts Museum and lying on the floor drawing her favourite paintings. “Dad created all the games for us to learn the notes, rhythms, music history,” she says. “It was fun!” The importance of music for children motivated Lemaire to take the position of artistic director at CAMMAC where parents learn alongside their children in a camp setting – great for her four sons.


Emulating someone you want to be like when you grow up may be the spark to ignite a kid’s desire to participate in the arts. Matt Cassidy, actor and producer of Ottawa Musicals, looked up to the older people he worked with as a young actor. They were where he wanted to be; giving him a goal to work towards. As a child, he realized people did a great deal of work behind the scenes in order for the actors to get out onto that stage and tell a story. He loved being on stage as a kid and he still loves it as an adult. He and his wife, Sarah Cassidy, both enjoy producing so that fellow actors – including their young son, Declan – can enjoy more time on stage.




Did you know?

Choral Canada released a study last year that showed that three times as many kids sing in a choir than play hockey.


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