The power of performance

A performing arts education teaches commitment, connection and creativity 

By Heidi Tattrie Rushton
Photography by Harmony Adesola

Extracurricular activities in the performing arts may not get as much attention as sports in our region, but for many kids, they’re just
 as important.

More evidence is emerging that children who participate in the performing arts receive many benefits beyond the actual skills they learn, such as increased confidence, enhanced communication skills, emotional development, an improved ability to concentrate, and intellectual development in academics. 

Our Children spoke with three students whose performing arts education is shaping their future.

Joel Chaisson


Owen Chiasson is in Grade 4 in Cole Harbour and loves to sing, act and compose music. Owen plays the violin, cello, and piano, and attends theatre school on the weekend. They admit it can be challenging some days to fit in homework and social time, but somehow manage to get it all done. Owen spends about 4.5 hours each week attending structured programing in the performing arts and many more hours practicing and self-teaching.

Owen’s older brother, Joel, age 12, also plays multiple instruments and acts. He clocks in about six hours per week, including band, violin, cello and theatre school practices, but adds that he probably spends another three hours per week on the piano teaching himself songs. “I rarely walk past the piano without playing,” he says.

Marijane (M.J.) Massey, 12, of Bedford has been involved in various performing arts, including jazz dancing, throughout her life. This past summer she signed up for five weeks of drama camp at Neptune Theatre and fell in love with the craft. She estimates that she now spends about five hours per week pursuing her acting interests in structured activities, but says she keeps those mostly to the weekends which allows her to keep up with schoolwork and other interests during the week.

 M.J. Massey fell in love with acting at theatre camp. 


M.J. has continued with the classes at Neptune Theatre throughout the fall, along with drama club at school, and plans to continue in the winter and spring. Her goal is to audition for the TD Youth Performance Company next summer. She also had her first taste of an on-screen experience this year when she appeared in a TV commercial.

One of the biggest hurdles many performers face is stage jitters, but M.J. is learning skills in her programs to work through those feelings, as well as how to support peers who might be struggling.

“You just take some deep breaths. Maybe you feel like you just want to get it over with, but you should feel the moment and think about how hard you’ve been working for this,” she advises. “Even though there’s going to be a ton of people and even though you might mess up, that’s okay because it’s really all about having fun.”

She says the sense of belonging in the theatre world is a big part of why she keeps coming back.

“I like acting because I feel like it’s a place where I can connect with people who are a lot like me,” M.J. says. “Sometimes I can’t find a group of friends who like to do the same stuff as me or have the same personality. When I’m acting, I feel like I’ve found the right group of people who just get me and understand me, and I feel like they feel the same way too.”

Joel says being involved in the performing arts has given him a unique way to connect with others too. 

“One of my most memorable moments was when I brought my violin to school. At lunchtime, I took it out and started playing … and people started watching me. They were suggesting songs and it was really exciting for me and I saw the people getting excited,” he says. “I love that music is kind of this universal thing, especially instrumental music, that everybody understands.”

Brothers Joel and Owen Chaisson love the creative process and entertaining and audience.


It’s the creation part that Joel loves most about the arts.

“Theatre is really, really fun. I enjoy acting and I enjoy creating characters and stories. Creating weird, quirky characters is my favourite,” he says. “Really, for all the arts I enjoy them so much because I’m creating something.”

The grade seven student says his love of music began with piano lessons. When the formal lessons stopped during the pandemic, that didn’t stop him from continuing to learn on his own.

“I use YouTube tutorials now. Sounds weird, but it started during COVID when I wanted to play ‘Let It Go’ for my friends as a joke. I was like I’m going to use YouTube to learn how to play it and I kept doing it and got to learn a lot,” he says. “Instead of songs you learn just to practise piano, I got to learn more songs that I actually wanted to know.”

Owen also likes learning new musical instruments on their own time. They remember receiving a ukulele for Christmas when they were about four years old. At the time, they didn’t know how to play but started strumming while singing and began to put together a song. This past year, at age nine, they started working on the song again and finished it, but now it’s performed on the piano.

When asked what they love most about the performing arts they say, “I like entertaining people and I like writing songs.”

M.J. agrees with the love of entertaining others and thinks the performing arts are a great place for anyone who wants to have a new experience, especially if you’re looking for a welcoming community.

“(Acting) is a really great thing to do when you feel a little bit different from everybody else,” the Grade 7 student says. “It’s just really fun and amazing for anybody to try.”

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