Is your child interested in art, music or theater? Are you looking for a Maryland group or activity that can help your child with self-confidence and discipline? Whether your child wants to be an actor, a musician or an artists or just wants to expand his or her horizons, a local art, music or theater activity could be just right.
“We had one young man come to us last year … He was the oddball kid at school, he was the kid everyone picked on,” says Kathy Swekel of the Children’s Theater of Annapolis. “No matter what, he was going to be the target. He had spent his whole life like that. He wanted to try something different, and he came to us and got into a production and, in the course of a year, he went from this quiet, withdrawn kid to this person who after performances would come to the lobby and talk to kids.”
“We’re sort of helping to create the next generation of well-rounded children,” says Emily Blumenthal, Manager of Family Programs for the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. “The global side of it, this inclusive nature to art-making that kids, whether they’re English language learners or special needs, means that everyone can be with works of art, can look at works of art and come to [them] with the same validity.
“There are a number of studies that show the benefits of playing music,” says Bill Martin, executive director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. “But most of all, music inspires creativity.”
Think the fine arts are for stuffy men in tuxedos and their dripping-with-diamonds wives? Exposing your child to the fine arts—especially in a time when art, drama and music programs are being cut in schools—not only inspires their creativity, as Martin says, but helps them with teamwork, innovative thinking and self-confidence.
All the World’s a Stage
If you’ve got a little diva running around your house, you might think that theater would be a natural outlet—and you’d be right. But what might surprise you is how much theater can do for a kid who’s not necessarily a natural performer.
“We’ve got every kind of kid,” says the Children’s Theater’s Swekel. “Very few of the kids that come to us are going on to be professional actors. We’re not about growing professionals. We’re about growing individuals.”
Swekel says that the mission of the CTA is “to provide young people between five and 18 a nurturing and encouraging creative environment where they can be free to express themselves, which is not always appropriate in a school setting.” Through working on shows like the musical theater classic The Music Man and the opera Brundibar, both performed this season, participants learn discipline, self-motivation and, perhaps most importantly, teamwork.
“No matter how large or small your particular part, whether it’s working backstage or performing onstage, none of it works if it all doesn’t work,” says Swekel.
The CTA, in addition to their performances, also offers summer camps, master classes and workshops. And parents often find themselves involved without meaning to: “generally, there will be one kid that takes a workshop or wants to be in a production, and once the other family members see what’s going on, they want to be a part of it, too.”
Even the most patient kid might have trouble sitting through a full performance of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. But that doesn’t mean the ASO doesn’t want to see your child in the audience. With their Family Concert Series—the most recent on Feb. 6—the ASO reaches out to those who might become their future patrons.
Bill Martin, the symphony’s executive director, explains the kid-friendly concerts: “We select music which is very kid-friendly; much of the music is designed to introduce youngsters to the orchestra.” The next concert’s offerings are the perennial children’s favorite “Peter and the Wolf,” plus “Green Eggs and Ham,” based on the Dr. Seuss story. Storyteller Michael Boudewyns makes the concert more interactive, so kids don’t have to sit quietly for the entire time.
The family concerts are also shorter, running about 45 minutes, and often include activities before and afterwards. The “Meet the Musicians” series is a particular hit—both with the kids and the orchestra. “[The musicians] love it. These are usually their favorite concerts of the year, to see the excitement of the students,” says Martin.
Give Life a Shape
But what if your child is more attracted to paint than pianos? Or, say, can’t quite walk or talk yet?
“Our programs start at birth,” says Emily Blumenthal of The Walters Art Museum. “We know that, even if someone is not yet thinking about bringing their child to the museum for an educational experience, that children are involved in these leisure time activities — they’re coming along for the ride. They’re tagging along, but not engaged. And we want to engage them and become an important part of our lives.”
The Family Art Center at the lower level of the museum is open whenever the museum is, and it has puppets, games and storybooks, as well as two art studios. And every weekend there are drop-in art activities that related to one of the exhibits in the museum. The activities are “not just for the child, not just for the adult,” says Blumenthal. “We focus on intergenerational learning.” She says that, at least in the family center, “It’s OK to make a mess in the museum.”
The Walters also has Family Festival days throughout the year, where the entire museum is kid-friendly, with art activities throughout the museum, movies and performances. “All day long from top to bottom,” says Blumenthal.
Chances are your child won’t make a living as an artist, musician or actor. But chances are she won’t make a living as an athlete, either—yet we encourage our children to play sports because we know it’s good for their bodies. The fine arts are the same way; nourishing your child’s brain and soul and giving them rewards far greater than money can buy.
Click below to access the Chesapeake Family Enrichment/After School Program Directory and find the perfect local enrichment activity for your child.