Our Children Winter 2021/2022

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Halifax’s Family Magazine ourchildrenmagazine.ca Winter 2021/2022

Arts incubator Young talents are nurtured at the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts

plus The power of performance

Holiday gift guide

Health & Wellness Nutrition Life at home

Gift Atlantic

The best gifts are made at home. Don’t miss out on these exciting titles from some of your homegrown favourites!


Santa Never Brings Me a Banjo

Kimmy & Mike

A Very Silly Alphabet

David Myles

Dave Paddon

Jeannie Hillman

Illustrated by Murray Bain

Illustrated by Lily Snowden-Fine

Illustrated by Sarah Shortcliffet

An upbeat Christmas lament transformed into a children’s Christmas book by David Myles that can be read or sung out loud together. Ages 4–7

Paddon’s playful rhymes resonate with Newfoundland dialect and Snowden-Fine’s illustrations are a marvellous match. Ages 6–8

A quirky nonsense-poetry alphabet book filled with bright and silly illustrations. Ages 4–8

Nimbus Publishing

Running the Goat

$12.95 pb

$12.95 pb

Be a Camouflage Detective

TOGO to the Rescue!

Looking for Critters That are Hidden, Concealed, or Covered

A Halifax Explosion Story

Slowpoke the Bell Island Mine Horse Heather Smith Illustrated by Genevieve Simms

This is the delightful story of Togo, a heroic grocery-delivery horse, and his family. Ages 7–10

Packed with detailed and vivid watercolour illustrations and clear answers to creative questions. Ages 7–12

“A sombre yet beautiful story of resilience and love.” —Lisa Doucet in Atlantic Books Today. Ages 4–8

New World Publishing

Nimbus Publishing

Nimbus Publishing

$13.95 pb

$14.95 pb

$22.95 hc

A Sure Cure for Witchcraft

Amazing Atlantic Canadian Women

Laura Best A middle-grade novel about witchery, friendship and healing, set in 18th-century Germany & present-day Nova Scotia. Ages 8–12 $13.95 pb

$13.95 pb

Laura King, illustrated by Hannah Aubrecht

Written and illustrated by Peggy Kochanoff

Nimbus Publishing

Nimbus Publishing

Seasons Before the War Bernice Morgan

Stephanie Domet & Penelope Jackson Illustrated by James Bentley Features over 70 amazing women from across the Atlantic provinces. Ages 8–12 Nimbus Publishing

$22.95 pb

Browse the collection at AtlanticBooks.ca/Holiday

Spot the lighthouse at your local bookseller and #GiftAtlantic this holiday season

Illustrated by Brita Granstrom The joys and trials of everyday life growing up in old St. John’s. Ages 6+ Running the Goat

$29.95 hc


Winter 2021/2022


13 The power of performance


A trio of students share how performing improves their lives

DEPARTMENTS 5 Editor’s note Setting the stage for life

6 First bell The latest news on Halifax’s family-friendly events


11 A different rooute Holiday life hacks

19 Nutrition Booster shot

20 Parenting health & wellness The transformative power of music Homemade is never short on supply


22 Life at home

Arts incubator With a rich history and welcoming environment, the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts inspires emerging talents


On our cover Performing Arts student Cecelia Peters practices in the Conservatory’s Lillian Piercey Concert Hall Photo: Bruce Murray/VisionFire

Publisher Fred Fiander Editor in Chief Crystal Murray

Contributing Editors Trevor J. Adams Jodi DeLong Janet Whitman

telling halifax stories


Senior Director Creative Design and Production Shawn Dalton

Designers Roxanna Boers Jocelyn Spence Production Coordinator Nicole McNeil

Production and Design Assistant Kathleen Hoang Printing Advocate Printing & Publishing Contributors

Do you know a boy who likes to sing?

Jill Chapell, Dorothy Grant, Karen Kerr, Fawn Logan-Young, Katie Ingram, Bruce Murray, Heidi Tattrie Rushton, Janet Whitman

For advertising and editorial enquiries: Tel. 902-420-9943 / Fax 902-429-9058 publishers@metroguide.ca 2882 Gottingen St. Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K 3E2 metroguidepublishing.ca ourchildrenmagazine.ca Subscriptions 1-833-600-2870 circulation@metroguide.ca

Directed by Nick Halley

Completely FREE music training in a centuries-old tradition Recruiting boys ages 6 – 12 to begin in Winter 2022

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the publisher. Return undeliverable addresses to Metro Guide Publishing at the address above.

To find out more visit

www.capellaregalis.com Stay tuned for details about our new Girls Choir, coming soon.

Our Children is a Metro Guide publication.


Setting the stage for life PHOTO: NORTHOVER PHOTOGRAPHY

Watching our children grow through the performing arts

Crystal Murray, Editor in Chief

Our Children Magazine

@OurChildrenMag www


crystalmurray@ advocateprinting.com


From toothless grins on stage during their first holiday school concerts, to music festivals www

and competitions, I have watched www my children learn...


few weeks ago, I had the joy of watching my daughter perform at her dance school recital that had been postponed since last June. She will graduate next spring, so this was likely one of her last performances with her ballet school and with the dancers she has been friends with since preschool. I found it hard to believe that this beautiful young woman dancing across the stage with such confidence was the same little girl in a purple tutu who skipped, twirled, and fell on her bottom at her first recital. Only four, she was mortified by her performance and declared with arms crossed and feet stamping that she was never going to dance again. By the time dance school registration opened that following year and she was the ripe old age of 5, she put the ordeal (that the audience thought was adorable), behind her and never looked back. Watching my children perform on stage with dance, piano, voice, and choir has been one of my greatest joys as a parent. From toothless grins on stage during their first holiday school concerts, to music festivals and competitions, I have watched my children learn things beyond music notes and choreography that will resonate throughout their lives. In the feature, “The power of performance” (page 13), we meet three young performers about how taking to the stage has allowed them to explore and appreciate their individuality. They also share how their commitments foster discipline to balance their art and school-based education, plus sharpen their social and emotional skills and mental wellness management. It’s no wonder that a child with a foundation in the performing arts is often considered to be a well-rounded person. And behind every talented performer there is a teacher and a mentor. The Halifax area is fortunate

to have a huge pool of talent who love to teach and foster a love for the arts with the next generation. In this issue, we look back at how the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts has been inspiring youth for over 100 years and has plans to continue long into the future (page 16). We are now in the throes of the holiday season where we are used to seeing our children perform at annual school concerts — a time when all children have a chance to shine. These events will be a little different this year, but I am sure that our educators are finding unique ways for all our children to explore the joys of performing, knowing that when they do, they are helping to set the stage for important life skills. As we wrap up our final issue of 2021, we leave you with some great tips for a season that hasn’t quite returned to its normal self. On page 11, columnist Fawn Logan-Young shares her life hacks for a more economical, low-waste season — something that is on everyone’s mind this year and freelance journalist Katie Ingram gives us the remedy to supply chain woes and inspires us to get creative (page 22). As much as I find it hard to believe that the holidays are here again, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I hope that you find some time to get outside and enjoy the lights, sights, and sounds, of Christmas. The Our Children team wishes you and your family a holiday season that puts a smile on your face and a song in your heart. n

Crystal Murray, Editor




Our Children | Winter 2021

Halifax Thunderbirds PHOTO: TJ MAGUIRE (@TJHFX)

The pandemic forced the National Lacrosse League into a full shut down for a year and a half, and the Halifax Thunderbirds are finally back with a full slate of nine home games at Scotiabank Centre, including a visit from the Toronto Rock on Dec. 10 and the New York Riptide on Jan. 8. The last home date before the playoffs is an Apr. 1 visit from the Rochester Knighthawks. halifaxthunderbirds.com

Evergreen Festival


Continuing until Dec. 19, Halifax abounds “with music, light, and joy.” This outdoor winter event showcases Nova Scotian culture, food, spirits, craft, art and memorable experiences. Celebrate and embrace the essence of the holidays. Evergreen Stage will host events on the Halifax waterfront. Also on site, find Evergreen Market, where temporary wooden chalets house vendors from across Nova Scotia. evergreenfestns.com

Neptune Theatre Live theatre is a rite of the season for many Halifax families and, as always, Neptune is the destination of choice. On the main stage, you’ll find the musical comedy Alice in Pantoland (Nov. 23 to Jan. 9). The namesake Pantoland is in jeopardy when the evil Queen of Hearts unleashes her plot: it’s up to Alice and her zany friends to save the day. A Christmas Carol runs concurrently until Boxing Day on the studio stage. Rhys Bevan-John returns to the role of Ebenezer Scrooge for the fifth consecutive year. neptunetheatre.com

Walk Through Africville Open from noon to 6 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays at the Halifax Convention Centre, this exhibition provides an opportunity to learn what it might have been like to walk down a street in Africville. The traveling exhibit created by the Africville Museum highlights the things that were important to the people who lived in the now-razed community, sharing its history and the vital role it played in shaping Halifax and Nova Scotia. africvillemuseum.org

Inspire young talents with a day of urban explorations! Begin at South and Barrington streets, moving through the downtown core to the historic waterfront. Great stops along the way include Peace and Friendship Park at Hollis and South streets, Victoria, Roman Goddess of Victory at 1221 Barrington St., the Halifax Distillery Mural at 1668 Lower Water St., the Brewery Market Facade Lighting at 1496 Lower Water St. and the Rising Tide mural at Maritime Centre on Salter Street. downtownhalifax.ca n


Self-Guided Downtown Art Tour

2 1 Watches for everyone

Jigsaw Puzzles $12.99–33.50

Enjoyment for the whole family or just yourself! We carry The New York Puzzle Company, Ravensburger, Cavallini, Pomegranate, Galison and lots of others. Atlantic News 902-429-5468 @atlanticnews atlanticnews.ns.ca

Give a timeless gift this holiday season - a beautiful watch from Inglis Jewellers. With their selection of timepieces from Citizen, Bulova, Caravelle, MVMT, Tissot, and more, you’re sure to find something special for your someone special! Locations in Truro, New Glasgow, Riverview, Sydney and online at inglisjewellers.ca


Sigma Lenses

Sigma offers lenses for every use starting as low as $379.99. From wide angle to super telephoto choose a lens for your Canon, Nikon or Sony camera. Moncton, NB ivanscamera.com

4 Alexa!


Bearloom Teddies

Artist-made teddy bears, home décor & Christmas items created from recycled fur coats. Dartmouth, NS bearloomteddies@hotmail.com 902-221-6716 bearloomteddies.com



The astonishing story of Alexa McDonough, the woman whose career changed the face of Canadian politics. Goose Lane Editions gooselane.com


The Mercantile Social

Gift Card Fresh seafood, signature recipes and a lively, elegant vibe in the heart of downtown. Come for cocktails with friends or an intimate dinner for two. 1579 Hollis St. Halifax, NS 902-425-8682 themercantilesocial.ca

Holiday Gift Guide



A Natural Balance Hardcover (illustrated)


A beautifully illustrated book celebrating the 20th anniversary of the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens at Acadia University. Goose Lane Editions gooselane.com

8 Holiday Collections $65

Choose from three unique holiday collections packed with local luxuries from small businesses across Canada. Free shipping. The Little Shop Box info@thelittleshopbox.com thelittleshopbox.com

9 SkyWatcher Dob 8” $609.99

Telescopes make great Christmas gifts and Ivan’s have scopes for all ages and experience. Telescopes starting at just $89.99. Moncton, NB ivanscamera.com



Jost Vineyards

Dartmouth Puzzle

Give the joy of wine tastings, locally inspired fare, shopping in the winery boutique and a stroll into the vines while exploring the vineyards. For use at the wineries only. Open seasonally. 48 Vintage Lane, Malagash, NS 902-257-2636 jostwine.ca

Gift Certificate


504 Piece Dartmouth Icons puzzle, Eastern Passage and Dartmouth Geese versions also available in store and online. The Trainyard - 137 Portland Street @trainyardstore trainyardstore.com


For the movie lover on your list!

Spend $40 or more in Cineplex gift cards and unwrap even more movie magic (like free popcorn!) cineplex.com/holiday


Creative Mind, Happy Soul Journal By Doodle Lovely


The top self-care tools together in one book! Featuring doodling, gratitude, journaling and mood trackers to help you bring calm and creativity to your day. doodlelovely.com


The Newfoundland Tea Company $14–$20 (no tax)

Sweet and fruity with a hint of candied nuts, Plum Pudding is sure to leave visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. With 24 organic blends, you’ll find a tea for everyone on your list! thenewfoundlandteaco.com

Holiday Gift Guide



Small Structures of Nova Scotia $22.95

A full-colour, narrative and pictorial celebration of Nova Scotia’s tiny structures, including homes, cabins, fish huts, artist’s studios, and more. Nimbus Publishing nimbus.ca


Art1274 Hollis Gallery


Make gift-giving easy with an inspiring array of Nova Scotian created fine art and fine craft. Paintings, jewellery, pottery, rug hooking, prints, felt art, and more... art1274hollis.ca



going to the

By Doodle Lovely


Like a paint by number, doodlers are invited to fill in an image with suggested shapes and patterns for 30 doodle activities. No artistic talent needed to start! doodlelovely.com



White Point Gift Card

Wrap up a winter getaway at White Point Beach Resort. Enjoy ocean views, soak in the indoor pool, and relax. whitepoint.com

We Rise Again $19.95

20 Shelby Ranch

Doodle By Number: A Festive Guide to Calming the Chaos

Check out our Sleigh Ride of Lights event or Give the gift of Ranch Adventure with a gift certificate. Located in Scotsburn, Pictou County, only 1 hour and 40 minutes from Halifax. shelbyranch.ca


The follow-up to national bestseller Stay the Blazes Home, featuring inspiring photos and stories of Nova Scotians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nimbus Publishing nimbus.ca

Northern Watters Knitwear & Tartan Shop

The “Home” of the 100% British Wool sweaters and accessories. Supporting over 250 Canadian artisans with their crafts. Scottish/Irish items and First Nations. Open year round. 1869 Upper Water St., Halifax, NS Historic Properties 902-405-0488 150 Richmond St, Charlottetown, PE C1A 1H9 800-565-9665 nwknitwear.com

Holiday Gift Guide



Pop-Up Halifax $29.95

A colourful pop-up book for all ages featuring 6 full-colour scenes of Halifax and beyond. Nimbus Publishing nimbus.ca

23 Indigenous Art Prices range from



The Gallery Shop is proud to feature a selection of hand made products by Indigenous artists and makers from the region and across Canada. Pick out an original piece of jewelry, smoke-fired pottery, or soapstone sculpture. Gallery Shop at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia 1723 Hollis St., Halifax, NS 902.424.4303 | @ArtGalleryNS shop.artgalleryofnovascotia.ca

Shore Things $75

Hand poured resin by local artisan. NS, NB, NL available. Fishermans Cove, Eastern Passage 902-237-1195 facebook.com/ShoreThingsGifts

25 Globe and Mail & Sun New York Times Subscription $8.25 to $13.47 weekly

26 Gift Box of Handmade Chocolates

Several sizes available $13–$41 Originally from the South of France, Head Chocolatier Julien Rousseau has been practicing this art form for nearly two decades! Enjoy skillfully handcrafted chocolates made with the finest sustainable chocolate and many of Nova Scotia's natural resources. Each decadent piece is handmade from wholesome ingredients, real fruits and is free of any artificial preservatives. Gift Box sizes available in 6, 8, 12 and 24 pieces. Rousseau Chocolatier 5151 South St., Halifax, NS info@rousseauchocolatier.ca (902) 802-6463 rousseauchocolatier.ca

Each Sat & Sun get a copy of the print edition of the Globe & Mail and / or Sunday New York Times. Please call for details. Atlantic News 902-429-5468 atlanticnews.ns.ca

27 Quarterdeck Resort Gift Card

Give the gift of relaxation this Holiday Season with a gift card to the Quarterdeck Resort. Purchase in any denomination online or call 1-800-565-1119 quarterdeck.ca


Our Children | Winter 2021

Holiday life hacks Put your focus on time well spent

By Fawn Logan-Young


t’s the season of buying gifts and spending time with family, but with COVID-19, traditions have changed. Gift shopping is harder, as is spending quality time with loved ones. Not to mention, funds are tight for many during this global pandemic. I would love to share with you some of my holiday life hacks that I have been using over the last few years. They feel relevant now more than ever. They can be as inexpensive and low-waste as you make them. Most importantly, they’re a great way to spend quality time with young ones this season.

Secret Santa with a twist Want to find a creative way for your children and their friends to connect this winter? This version of Secret Santa has the same rules as your standard exchange — draw names, assign the exchanges, get presents and send — but the gifts must be homemade. During this pandemic, homemade helps make the exchange more personal when sending a gift in the mail if you’re not able to spend time with a friend. Another benefit is you have control over

Give children an opportunity to be part of the creative process when customizing decorations and gifts.



Our Children | Winter 2021

your input costs. Your child gets to customize something special for their friend (and vice versa), while you and your young one will be able to bond and enjoy the creative process.

Make advent calendars and New Year’s countdowns Customizing your own can be as inexpensive as you wish, depending on the treats you use. You could even exchange chocolate for something else, like mini toys, or personalized coupons for fun activities that children can redeem another time. There is a lot less to waste with this process if you stick with recycled materials. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Here’s what we came up with in my house. • Wrap 25 chocolates with opaque tissue paper. • Use decorative rope and space out the 25 chocolates. • Hot-glue gun the rewrapped chocolates to the rope. • Number the chocolates one to 25 in random order. • Starting Dec. 1, chow down.

2 night

Family Beach Break



Go vintage Thrifting sessions can be a hit or miss. I do love mom-and-pop thrift shops because they tend to have more unique and quirky finds that kids tend to love discovering. Let us not forget, you also get to support local and a more mindful approach with upcycling. Giving kids a mission to find something can be game with a potential reward. I have done this with my little cousins before, promising them if they found what I was looking for, they would get one item in the store of their choice. Nothing feels better than finding the right gift for the right person, knowing you took the effort to do so. You can teach kids this lesson too.

Make your own decorations In my house, about 90 per cent of our holiday decorations are homemade ornaments, besides the lights and a few vintage decorations that have been passed down to us from family. Making your own is a whole lot of fun and over the years you can build up a nice collection of ornaments without laying out a lot of cash. Crafting is great family bonding time, and you can’t beat the holiday smells and bustle that fills the house. A few of my favourites tree trimmings: • Popcorn and cranberry garlands • Dehydrated cinnamon sticks tied up with string • Cut out gingerbread salt dough cookie ornaments • Little bundles of dehydrated flowers and foraged berry bush branches.

The benefits The holidays can be a stressful, so I hope these hacks are a help. Not only do you get more time with your family, but you also get more time to teach your children the importance of concepts like low waste, re-thrifting objects, and the bond between friends and family. n


kid er d 5 & unt

ea free!

Winterize your entire family! Prepare for a wonderful blast of winter with a Family Beach Break at White Point. You’ll need bathing suits, and an appetite for bottomless buffets. Bring boots for a romp around the golf course, and workout clothes for a demanding game of foosball. Pack holiday spirit, warm jackets for evening bonfires, and a yearning for singing in the Lounge. Be ready for Christmas magic and a winter-long adventure! Based on a Room for a family of 4 (2 adults & 2 children 6-10 years). Plus taxes. Cottage rates available.

1.800.565.5068 whitepoint.com

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Our Children | Winter 2021

Joel Chaisson, M.J. Massey and Owen Chaisson engage in weekend theatre training at the Neptune Theatre School in Halifax.

The power of performance A performing arts education teaches commitment, connection and creativity By Heidi Tattrie Rushton Photography by Harmony Adesola


xtracurricular 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.

COMMITMENT 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




Our Children | Winter 2021

“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,”

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.

CONNECTION 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

15 Page 14: Brothers Joel and Owen Chaisson love the creative process and entertaining and audience. Left: M.J. Massey fell in love with acting at theatre camp.

thing, especially instrumental music, that everybody understands.”


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

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.” n

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ourchildrenmagazine.ca CrystalMurray@advocateprinting.ca OurChildrenMagazine @OurChildrenMag www




Our Children | Winter 2021

Arts incubator

With a rich history and a welcoming environment, the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts inspires emerging talents By Janet Whitman and Dorothy Grant Photography by Bruce Murray/VisionFire


anet Bradbury, like many, loves the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts. “It’s special for so many reasons,” says the former student and long-time dance teacher at the Halifax arts institution. “If you’re there with little ones starting their lessons, they can be walking down the hall and hear someone singing opera from one room, piano from another or a brass ensemble, or see dancers practicing. Because it’s all under one roof, even if you’re only going in for one little thing, you’re exposed to the entire artistic experience.” A big part of the magic is the conservatory’s historic home. Since 1996, its studios have been in the former 14-classroom Chebucto School on the corner of Chebucto Road and St. Matthias Street. The landmark 20th-century Classical Revival-style brick building was built between 1908 and 1910 for the growing community straddling West End and North End Halifax. Touted at the time as Halifax’s largest and finest school, it was built on the site where Barnum & Bailey had pitched circus tents. In the aftermath of the 1917 Halifax Explosion, when a wartime ship collision led to an explosion that devastated the city, the school was used as a triage and first aid centre, basement morgue, and later funeral home, with students sent to other schools for a time.

The conservatory acquired ownership of the property in 1997 from the municipality. It was sold for a dollar with the stipulation that the buyers spend close to half a million dollars on renovations. “I love that it’s an old building — it feels like there are a lot of stories in the walls,” says Alice Prichard. She enrolled her two kids in classes on the recommendations of her new Halifax neighbours after her family moved to the peninsula from Calgary in the summer. Her six-year-old daughter Maëlle Prichard-Fong, who’s taking violin, says the building is “really beautiful” and the window at the front is “really pretty.” Her nine-year-old son Xavier Prichard-Fong likes that there’s room not only for a grand piano for him to play, but also a separate piano for his teacher to accompany him during lessons. Like Bradbury, Prichard appreciates the variety of talented people she and her kids are exposed to as they head to and from classes. “I love that there’s so much music and creativity going on whenever we’re there; we see dancers, musicians and musical theatre actors,” she says. “It is inspiring to be there.” The conservatory’s roots stretch back to 1887, when Rev. Robert Laing launched the Halifax Conservatory of Music as part of the Halifax Ladies’ College on what’s now Barrington Street.


Photos from top left: Maelle Prichard-Fong practices violin. Dance Director Janet Bradbury gives instruction to ballet student Cecelia Peters. Piano student Xavier Prichard-Fong and instructor Michael Coburn. Cecelia Peters is a multidisciplined performing arts student studying piano, voice and dance.


Our Children | Winter 2021



The construction of the Chebucto School was completed in 1910 and has importance in the history of education in Halifax.

In 1954, the Halifax Conservatory of Music combined with the 1934-era Maritime Academy of Music to form the Maritime Conservatory of Music. The conservatory moved at least seven times over the decades, sharing and renting space until 1996 when it ended up in the old Chebucto School. In 1998, it became the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts, a move reflecting its diverse offerings: performance, instrumental and vocal music and music theory, Kindermusik, group and ensemble music and its school of dance, which includes ballet, jazz and teacher training. Margaret Whitehouse, who’s in her third year of music education at Acadia University, took private violin lessons at the conservatory with teacher Susannë Brown from the age of five until graduating from high school at 17. “It is a very special place for me with fun memories and people I’ve met and people I’ve gotten to work with,” says Whitehouse. “It was nice to have that community to go to. There’s a large range there in terms of music, in terms of dance, but also with the age range too.” Some of her fondest memories are playing in Christmas concerts with the adult orchestra and younger kids, she says. “Especially when I was older, it was nice to be that role model for the younger kids playing violin.” Whitehouse says Brown and chamber orchestra teacher Celeste Jankowski inspired her to pursue a career in teaching music. “I still look up to them to this day,” she says. Beyond learning to play the violin, she got a valuable education in the different genres and periods of classical music and orchestra etiquette. She joined Symphony Nova Scotia’s Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra four years ago. “That was probably the biggest step up for me,” she says. “I don’t think I’d be able to get there if it wasn’t for my experience with the conservatory.” The aging building caused a rift a few years ago, with nearly

half the conservatory’s music teachers leaving amid talk the board was considering a move. Of particular concern in the community was the fate of the Lillian Piercey Concert Hall, which a “save-the-conservatory” petition at the time touted as having “some of the best acoustics in the city.” A major capital campaign is in the works to raise restoration funds so the building “will last for another 100 years or more,” says Bradbury, the conservatory’s dean of dance. “The brick needs a lot of work and that’s very, very costly ... But I think everybody, especially those of us who stayed, realize there’s so much potential.” More than ever, the conservatory is a hub for the community, she says. “Obviously, things have changed a lot since 1887. I feel like when it started it was probably a music school for the elite of the city. Now it’s the whole community.” Her three children attend the conservatory. Her oldest son William, 13, plays violin and piano, sings and participates in musical theatre. Her daughter Cecilia, 11, dances and sings. Her littlest one Benjamin, 5, is in Kindermusik, and a new adaptive dance program which he does in his wheelchair. “He just started his first dance class last week that he can fully participate in,” she says. “There’s lots of fun things for children, but they’re also seeing people working at high, professional levels,” says Bradbury. “It’s special for them. Yet it doesn’t feel intimidating. It doesn’t feel like, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t be in here when I’m six years old and just want to be running up and down the hallway.’ That’s OK.” n

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Our Children | Winter 2021


Booster shot Give your child’s immune system a boost of good nutrition this winter By Karen Kerr, registered holistic nutritional consultant


or the last 18 months, we’ve heard a lot about vaccines, masking and social distancing, and for good reason. There has been less — and in some cases, confusing — information on the importance of nutrition. Good nutrition won’t protect you from COVID-19. There are no magic supplements to ward off the disease. Vaccinating, handwashing, disinfecting, masking, and distancing remain the best practices. But a well-balanced diet, along with good sleep, exercise and low stress, does help the body better resist infection and disease. There is ongoing research in nutrition centres around the world that is gaining a better understanding about how nutritional status is important to maintain a strong immune system, with scientific measurements about how nutrition plays a role in the resilience of the individual when fighting disease. Our bodies are in constant contact with viruses and bacteria, and for the most part this is good. For our immune system to be strong, our bodies need some exposure to germs. A diverse microbiome, all of the good bacteria that is in our gut, is often the best measure of a healthy, strong immune system. As parents, it’s important to help build our children’s immune responses. With the added home and work stress of a global pandemic, keeping track of your children’s nutrition is challenging. The immune system is complex. If one aspect of this process is compromised, it affects everything else. While much of this is happening automatically, there are ways that you can influence a well-functioning immune system. In my holistic nutrition studies, I’ve learned that the immune system has two lines of defence. The first is our innate defence, consisting of our physical barrier (our digestive tract in this case) and our natural ability to rapidly respond chemically with inflammation, as when you get a paper cut. The innate system works quickly and is non-specific. The second is our adaptive defense, which creates our immunity as specialized cells recognize an evader, mark it, and create antibodies that will protect the body against further invasion. Food has nutrients that aid both of these systems. When you consume a whole foods, plant-based diet the majority of the time, you will receive most of the benefits that food

Increasing fiber and limiting sugar intake will help to boost your childs immune system.

has for the immune systems. But I’d like to highlight a few superstars. Let’s start with fibre. Many people don’t know how fibre plays a supporting role in overall health. Fibre creates an environment where beneficial bacteria can thrive in the gut. Then there are the foods that have both pre- and probiotic properties, such as yogurt and sauerkraut, feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Vitamin D and Vitamin C foods help the cells in both our innate and adaptive systems. It’s important to note that sugar (which is in most processed foods) has a net negative effect on the immune system. Refined sugar is heavily present in most children’s diets; reducing it will only benefit them.

Here are some easy substitutes for sugary foods to support immune systems • Plain yogurt topped with berries versus sugary desserts that masquerade as yogurt • Sourdough sandwich topped with vegetables instead of a white bread sandwich with processed cheese • Homemade granola bar versus a chocolate coated store-bought bar You see where I’m going. I know this way of eating isn’t possible all the time, but where you can, you should. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about doing what you can, when you can. n




Our Children | Winter 2021

The transformative power of music How music therapy is helping trans and non-binary youth find their voices By Jill Chappell


n innovative mental health program is connecting 2SLGBTQIA+ youth with their authentic voices. Funded by the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, Trans-Formative Voices is a program that treats gender dysphoria by providing voice and music therapy to transgender and non-binary youth. “A lot of our work is centered around coming into your voice and the identity of your voice and who we are as people,” says MacKenzie Costron, founder of Find Your Voice Music Therapy. “For the transgender and non-binary community on their journey of transitioning, when their voice, speaking or singing, doesn’t connect to who they feel they are as a human, that can be very unsettling.” Find Your Voice Music Therapy is currently running its first youth cohort of Trans-Formative Voices for teens aged 13 to 17. The eight-week program includes six private and two group sessions, operating under a pay-what-you- can model. Teenage participants don’t need to wait until after puberty to participate, either. In fact, learning the skills and techniques to find a gender-

affirming voice before puberty can help ease that transition “When you’re a transitioning, transgender individual, you want everybody to see you as you see you, and there’s a lot more to that than putting together a new wardrobe,” says Aimee Copping, a recent participant in the program. “You find yourself having to take on new ways of walking, new ways of feeling, new ways even of interacting with other people and it can all get a bit overwhelming.” The distress someone feels when their birth sex doesn’t align with their gender identity is known as gender dysphoria. In recent years, the number of Canadian adolescents reporting dysphoria has soared. The jump is believed to be a reflection of a demand for services that has long gone unmet due to stigma. A survey released by Statistics Canada this summer shows transgender Canadians are more likely than their cis peers (people who identify as the sex they were born with) to have seriously contemplated suicide and been diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder.



MacKenzie Costron, founder of Find Your Voice Music Therapy.

Feedback Led by music therapist Kastin Bradley, Trans-Formative Voices helps address these staggering mental health inequities by providing peer support and community connection, addressing feelings of isolation within a safe setting and by building self-confidence in gender identity and expression. “I had one client who at our very first individual session almost had an anxiety attack because they were so anxious about their voice,” says Bradley. “They just felt so disconnected from it and that it wasn’t authentic to them. Fast forward a couple of weeks and they’ve expressed they genuinely like how they’re presenting and being perceived. They’re not getting misgendered as much, so they have less dysphoria, are less worried and feel safer in public spaces.” As a non-binary therapist, Bradley brings a wealth of knowledge in serving the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. They first recognized a need for this type of program when their partner, who works as a musician, came out as transgender and quickly realized there were little to no resources to aid in his transition musically or vocally. Bradley is currently training in affirmative therapies for transgender communities at Widener University in Pennsylvania. “Everyone deserves to find their true voice, to be able to fully express themselves and live an authentic life, and Trans-Formative Voices is enabling that basic human right,” says Starr Cunningham, Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia president. “The Mental Health Foundation is incredibly proud of the support this service provides to our 2SLGBTQIA+ community, which reduces gender dysphoria while improving the mental health and well-being of transgender and non-binary individuals.” Cunningham says the foundation recognizes the importance of creating a safe, supportive space for members of the queer community and hope this program helps individuals uncover a deeper connection with their inner-voice and fully express who they are through speech and song. n











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Our Children | Winter 2021

Homemade is never short on supply Delays and backorders might make holiday shopping more challenging this year but a good old homemade gift is something you can always deliver on time. By Katie Ingram


his holiday season, parents and caregivers may have to look to their creative sides when it comes to gifts. With concerns about supply chains from both small and major retailers, certain gifts and other holiday items might not be available. This doesn’t mean there won’t be presents. They just might handmade. “The benefit of making your own holiday gifts is that you don’t need to rely on items being in stock, or items arriving in time for the big day,” says Truro mom Heather Laura Clarke. “You get to create the timeline, assemble what you need, and create it in plenty of time. There’s a huge sense of relief in that, especially during times like this.” Clarke says homemade gifts often have a “stigma,” but shouldn’t. “For every few people who love and appreciate something you made with your own two hands, there’s probably another person who thinks a homemade gift is cheap and doesn’t think of it as a real present,” she says. “It’s very unfortunate.” Halifax mom, Emma Staples finds homemade gifts leave more of a lasting impression. “I think with homemade gifts there’s something more in them; you spent your time and energy and thought, making this thing,” says Staples. “The whole time you’re making it you’re thinking about this special person in your life and (the item is)



something that they can treasure for years to come.” While some projects are easier than others, both Clarke and Staples say that homemade gifts can sometimes be more costly. But, this isn’t always the case. “It depends on what you’re making really; if you already are a crafter, and you have all the supplies already on hand, then it could be much cheaper to make something yourself,” says Staples. She adds that repurposing items can also be an option for those who are on a budget. “You take an old dress shirt, for example, from like your husband and make that into a dress for your little girl or for a doll. You don’t have to always go out and buy new things,” she says. “And that could be a really good option for someone who’s struggling financially or someone who just wants to be frugal and

not spend so much on Christmas.” Among other items, Staples has made doll clothes, quilts, pajamas and Christmas dresses; Clarke has made pajamas, quilts and artwork. Clarke says choosing handmade is about looking at what you can do in a given time frame, along with your budget. “Handmade doesn’t have to mean spending $400 at the craft store or the fabric store, or being a whiz with a glue gun,” she says. “There are lots of simple, meaningful gifts you can make with your hands that don’t take a lot of talent or money.” The gift in question should be something the person is capable of making. “I’ve given handmade gifts over the years that I thought were great at the time, and looking back, I sort of cringe,” says Clarke. “It’s definitely a matter of knowing what you can create that you’ll be proud to give.” She remembers her attempt at polymer earrings several years ago didn’t go well. That doesn’t mean things shouldn’t be tried. As Clarke says, making gifts can perhaps turn into a gift for the giver as well. “Who knows? You might end up with a new hobby,” she says. n

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