Developing Our Young People’s Potential Through the Arts
I believe that everyone who has the chance to participate in the performing arts is positively impacted by the experience; that said, there is perhaps no group more profoundly affected by seeing dance, music and theatre performances than children and young adults.
Researchers have found a number of important benefits for young people who are exposed to the performing arts, some of which are highlighted in a report by the Washington-based National Assembly of State Arts Agencies called Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement, published in 2006.
The report notes that students who participate in the arts tend to demonstrate stronger overall academic performance, show improved self-confidence and problem-solving skills, and can demonstrate more innovative and creative thinking than their peers who do not participate in the arts.
At the Fredericton Playhouse, we aim to help supplement the arts education offered in our school system with our School Field Trips program, which provides opportunities for students to visit the Playhouse for specially arranged matinee performances. Additionally, our annual Kidstage program provides a number of performances intended for children and their families.
But encouraging young people to participate in the performing arts – while still in school, and beyond – goes further than specially designed youth programming. That’s why youth discounts are made available on both the performances we present, and on a number of performances presented by our user groups.
All Spotlight Series and Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada shows offer an Under 19 rate, allowing anyone under the age of 19 to attend a show for only half of the regular ticket price.
A number of Playhouse partners provide a reduced rate for students of all ages, including Theatre New Brunswick and Symphony New Brunswick performances. TNB even offers a special price for anyone under 35, encouraging recent graduates and young professionals to participate in the arts. Student discounts are available on a number of local shows, including Bonnie Kilburn, Dance Fredericton and Extreme Dance productions.
Students are also encouraged to participate in our TD StudentRush program, offered on all Spotlight Series and NB Country Showcase performances, as well as other select shows. Students can stop by the box office within two hours of any participating performance with a student ID to purchase a ticket for only $12, regardless of the regular ticket price.
Our goal with these programs is to make the performing arts as accessible as possible for families with children, and for high school, college and university students who may be on a tight budget.
We’re always looking to attract more young people to the Playhouse, and that means listening to what young people themselves have to say. That’s why we developed a Youth Advisory Committee a little over a year ago. This committee consists of a group of volunteers between the ages of 16 and 25, including representatives from local high schools. The group has helped us to investigate initiatives to encourage younger members of our community to attend more Playhouse performances and activities.
We’re constantly exploring new ways to connect creatively with youth in our community. Over the next two months, for example, the Playhouse is providing a number of workshops and activities intended for young audiences, from a reading of the Velveteen Rabbit for children at the Fredericton Public Library, to a ballet repertory class for experienced young ballet dancers, to a shadow puppetry workshop for teens, offered in partnership with Fredericton Makerspace.
And just last week, we concluded our third annual March Break Rock Camp, a week-long experience that allows young people to get hands-on instruction from Don Levandier and Tom Antle, two members of Moncton-based band the Motorleague. Once again, the camp was a huge success, attracting more than 20 young musicians who received a solid introduction to recording, song writing, navigating band politics and playing live music.
Our mission at the Playhouse is to provide the community with enriching live performance experiences. Offering discounts, programs and performances intended for young people is one way that we can have an impact on those young lives and the overall quality of life, health and economic vitality of the community.
Tim Yerxa is the Executive Director of the Fredericton Playhouse.