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Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

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Artist-Educator Glenn Marais Reflects on Winter Showcase Music – ‘Spirit Of the North’

Written by DAREarts Artist-Educator, Glenn Marais.

Music is a gift to all of us. It echoes in our hearts and minds and resonates forever in our consciousness. Great songs can transport us to a specific time and place and a memory within seconds of the first note or chord and just like that, we are whisked away and under its spell.

Writing songs with my young friends from DAREarts is a true passion of mine. We write at a frenzied pace, starting at 9:30 and finishing with a recorded song at 2:30. The songs are written based on theme and once selected, I share song writing techniques and examples by singing popular and classic songs and then we send them off in small groups to brainstorm words, then lyrics which become verses, chorus’, rap sections and melodies developed to match their words.

The teachers and myself are continually blown away by their creations and this years’ Gr. 8 class took it to another level thanks to the generosity and compassion of the people at DAIS.  DAIS is a creative arts and music studio in Toronto, featuring five floors of recording studios, writing spaces, meeting rooms, multi-media and more. It is a cornucopia of creativity and we had it for the day to create and record our song. What a blessing. This building is incredible and eclipsed only by the generous nature and enthusiasm of the owner, Sol Guy and staff.

Our theme this year was self and our place in the world and how we can make a difference. It’s all in the lyrics written by these insightful, compassionate and intelligent students.

I could feel their nervousness at the rehearsal prior to Thursday’s performance, but I wasn’t concerned. It was a caring tension. It felt like they were presenting their song to the audience with a compassion born from creating it and a pride in their work. As if they wanted it all to come out with the same beauty as the creation of it. I admired them for that love of their craft and respect for their art.

When they performed, it was with grace and poise and attitude in the rap sections and power in the chorus. They owned it and it showed in their beaming faces as they smiled at the end with the applause of their parents, family and friends washing over them.

At the end of the show all of our DAREarts students gave a gift, a musical handshake to the people of Webequie First Nations reserve. They sang the song, “Spirit of the North”, composed by myself, and teachers and students of Simon Jacob Memorial School in Webequie. We wrote the song in October 2012 as part of a healing process after one of Webequie’s fine young men, Jordan Wabasse, passed away while living in Thunder Bay pursuing his dream of playing hockey at a high level.  He was found by the Kaministiquia River three months after disappearing in February of 2011.

The entire community was devastated and his classmates in particular where in shock and in mourning over the loss of their friend and someone they all looked up to.  We composed the song to heal our battered souls and to offer hope and love to the community. The lyrics seemed to flow out of us and the song grew around it like a protective cocoon. When we performed it in Webequie, the students sang with incredible passion and feeling, releasing their pain and opening their hearts again to healing and possibility. It was an incredible time to be with them and share that journey.

The students sang the song last night as if it were their own. There was a resounding power and joy in their voices as they sang together, in harmony, extending their hearts to our friends in the Far North.  I had shivers up and down my spine as I sang with them and felt the emotion coming out of our DAREarts students in waves of uninhibited passion. I’ll never forget that moment and if their words have wings the people of Webequie must have heard them last night and felt the splendour and glory of the moment.

This program does so much more than produce great music. It creates great moments of triumph through struggle, growth through understanding of self and a shared passion for the arts and each other that is developed and nurtured through the DARE values. I try to live by these values too because they are guiding lights and reminders of what we can be when we try our best.

DAREarts Artist
Glenn Marais

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DAREarts Uses Creativity to Empower Rexdale Area Kids

Last night, March 2nd 2017, DAREarts, a charity that empowers kids using the arts, held its annual DAREarts Winter Showcase at North Albion Collegiate Institute (NACI) in Rexdale, ON. 

The event showcased over 130 children, grades 4 through 8, from 13 Rexdale area schools.  With the theme “Promenade Through Time,” the Showcase features visual art, fashion, drama, dance, music and film, created by the youths with arts professionals, that time-traveled from the past to the present: from the Renaissance to hip hop.  Highlights included Juno-nominated musician Glenn Marais performing alongside Grade 8 students, and David Wall, blues artist and Jazz.FM91’s Director of Community Outreach and Education, alongside Grade 7 students. Community leaders attending included Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti, Councillor Michael Ford, TDSB Associate Director Christopher Usih, TDSB SOE Glenford Duffus and TDSB System Superintendent Annie Appleby.

This event is critical at a time when many young people face difficult choices. Bullying, peer pressure, youth violence and delinquency are just a few of their harsh, daily realities. With a severe lack of leadership opportunities or creative outlets, kids often become targets of negative influences. DAREarts closes the opportunity gap by giving these kids artistic, learning and personal development opportunities.  Participating schools were Albion Heights JMS, Beaumonde Heights JMS, Boys Leadership Academy, Chalkfarm JS, Claireville JS, Cookstown Central PS, Elmbank JMA, The Elms JMS, Greenholme JMS, Humberwood Downs JMA, Melody Village JS, Smithfield MS and West Humber JMS.

DAREarts operates nationally and is centred around the power of the arts and the DARE principles of Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence.  DAREarts’ Toronto program works with 9 to 14 year olds from schools in high-priority neighbourhoods, empowering them to become leaders.  Select schools choose two students from Grades 4 to 8 who are in need of broader opportunities. DAREarts Lead Teacher, Laura MacKinnon, and a team of arts professionals take the children to many arts venues across Toronto, including the AGO, the Aga Khan Museum, DAIS, Ballet Jorgen, the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, and the Toronto School of Art, where they explore cultures and then themselves create.  After each DAREarts Day, the student ‘delegates’ are tasked with going back to their home schools to peer teach their classmates what they have learned, becoming sharers of knowledge and cultures in the process. The annual Winter Showcase is a celebration of all they have learned in the program and a testament to their potential as future leaders.

“I’m incredibly proud of what these children have achieved in building their confidence and courage to be leaders through their DAREarts experiences,” says DAREarts founder Marilyn Field. “Their inner discipline, talent and creativity is truly admirable.  It’s proof that, with the right opportunity, our kids can achieve anything.”

Established 21 years ago, DAREarts has a proven track record of inspiring at-risk kids to reach their full potential. DAREarts has reached over 200,000 kids, giving many the necessary skills to avoid the pitfalls of drugs, guns and gangs and, instead, take up the arms of paint brushes, voices, instruments and acting. DAREarts’ success stories include young adults in business, medicine, law and education who may have been lost without the program.

DAREarts thanks its national supporter Northbridge Insurance and its lead supporters Scotiabank, TD Bank Group, Anne Livingston and the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.  Local Education Partners include the TDSB –The Toronto District School Board.

Photos courtesy Alan Dunlop.

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Ringing in the New Year with Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence


Our grade 8s explored identity as they painted abstract self-portraits with artist-educator Ricky Schaede. Photo by Mackenzy Willis.

There’s a saying as January 1st arrives: “New year, new you!” It’s the chance to start over, and to redefine ourselves for the better. DAREarts has already been working hard to help our youth redefine themselves as excellent, capable young leaders – a resolution that will empower 150 Rexdale-area children!

In December, we met with our new student delegates from 14 Northwest Etobicoke-area schools. These children have begun their DAREarts journey to empowerment as young leaders, leaving their schools for several full days of immersive arts education that help build the DARE values of Discipline, Action, Responsibility/Respect and Excellence. Coming in from grades four to eight, each class has now experienced two of their nine DAREarts Days.

Each DAREarts delegate is carefully selected by their school for a variety of reasons, many of which include bullying, poverty, underdeveloped social skills, or challenges at home or school. When a school signs on for DAREarts, they send us their students who are most in need of opportunity, and who need to find their inner leader before it’s too late.

Artist-Educator Jamie Robinson brings our Grade 4s into Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream on their Drama Day. Photo by Alan Dunlop.

Artist-Educator Jamie Robinson brought our Grade 4s into Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Alan Dunlop.

Our children have already encountered many incredible experiences in their first three weeks of DAREarts Days, working with our teaching team plus renowned artist-educators, including actor Jamie Robinson, stage combat choreographer Casey Hudecki, artistic director Kevin Ormsby of Kashedance, award-winning visual artists Sann Sann Lam, Ricky Schaede, and Ilana van Zyl, Ojibway artist Gloria Hope, sculptor Bruce Brown, and artistic director Luke Reece and actor Bria McLaughlin of Little Black Afro Theatre. They’ve explored the galleries of the AGO, discovered ornate historical footwear at the Bata Shoe Museum, dug into clay at the Gardiner Museum, and painted in the studios of the Toronto School of Art.

Artist-Educator Kevin Ormsby had our grade 7s moving with a day of Afro-Contemporary dance! Photo by Alan Dunlop.

Artist-Educator Kevin Ormsby had our grade 7s moving with a day of Afro-Contemporary dance! Photo by Alan Dunlop.

As they gain new knowledge and try new things, each DAREarts “delegate” has a mission at the end of the day: they are dared to teach their classmates back at school what they have learned at DAREarts, allowing more children to gain new educational insights while our delegates put their new leadership skills into practice.

These experiences are reshaping our delegates’ outlooks on themselves, their peers, and the world. They are redefining themselves through the “DARE” values of Discipline, Action, Responsibility, and Excellence.

Our delegates have so much more to experience in the weeks to come, all leading up to their special showcase at North Albion Collegiate (NACI) on March 2nd! Join us!

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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DAREarts Youth Experience Opera Atelier’s Dido and Aeneas!


img_0238On Tuesday, October 18th, 25 DAREarts youth and families were invited to see a very special dress rehearsal performance of Opera Atelier’s Dido and Aeneas.

As the children arrived at the Elgin Theatre, we were welcomed into the lower lounge for a pre-show discussion with Opera Atelier’s Senior Manager of Communications & Education, Bronwen Bradley. After a quick introduction to opera, Bronwen highlighted many of the components that make Opera Atelier a world-class leader in Baroque period productions. The young teens were enthralled to learn that they would be seeing an opera in a way that it would have been performed in the Baroque era, and that many of the instruments being used by the orchestra, Tafelmusik, were over 300 years old!

After meeting with Bronwen, the group was led to the theatre and seated. Opera Atelier’s Co-Artistic Director, Marshall Pynkoski, welcomed the audience and explained the process of the rehearsal. Between these explanations and Bronwen’s shared knowledge, the youths were eager to enjoy their first opera experience! When the performance concluded, everyone rushed home to be ready for school the next day – but not without smiles and thoughtful reflections on the incredible experience they just had.

We would like to extend a tremendous thank you to Opera Atelier for inviting our children into the beautiful world of Baroque opera!

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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DAREarts Youths Experience Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia

On July 27th, 50 DAREarts children and families rushed to Cirque du Soleil‘s Grand Chapiteau through the pouring rain.  The show, Luzia, described as “a waking dream of Mexico” was a feast for the eyes.  Our attendees, almost all of whom had never seen a Cirque show were totally in awe of the incredible, superhuman feats of the Cirque artists, of the gorgeous music and sets and overall air of magic created under that tent.

Everyone was buzzing with energy and excitement after the show – they loved it!  It was the kind of beautiful, inspiring experience that will stick with them as a shining beacon of the power of human creativity.

DAREarts Thanks Cirque du Soleil“Thanks so much for a great night!!! It was beautiful.” – Sabrina

“This is an amazing opportunity.” – Shannon

“Thank you so so much. I was so fortunate to see the show with my girls. It was incredible. Very much appreciate it.” – Dee

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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2016 DAREarts Toronto Summer Camp – Loving Shakespeare!

Stage combat choreography with Director Jenny Parr. Photo by Alan Dunlop.

Stage combat choreography with Director Jenny Parr. Photo by Alan Dunlop.

This July, 20 DAREarts Toronto Summer Campers delved into the Elizabethan era at Bloor CI and the TSA (Toronto School of Art), thanks to the generosity of Northbridge Insurance, the TSA, the TDSB, Coach Canada, and the Stratford Festival.  The teens, aged 12 to 17, engaged in intensive arts workshops centered on Stoppard, Norman, and Lee’s Shakespeare in Love, led by DAREarts Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon and Artist-Educator Jennifer Parr.

With only eight days ahead of them, our campers were eager to explore Shakespeare’s struggles with writer’s block and love’s inspiration and woes. The goal seemed daunting: the teens were dared to put on their own short performance that explored Shakespeare in Love! Assisting the teens were our three seasoned DAREarts youth mentors, Dante, Jaiden, and Ryan, and documenting their adventure was youth volunteer Dexter.

Actor Brendan McMurtry-Howlett brought language to life! Photo by Dexter Coffey.

Actor Brendan McMurtry-Howlett with campers. Photo by Dexter Coffey.

The first three days of camp were a whirlwind of workshops, and after being properly introduced to the plot of Shakespeare in Love they began their work as a burgeoning theatre company. Our youth volunteer, Dexter, describes the first moments of camp: “As people arrived they all congregated together and quickly began talking and laughing. The sense of community within the camp is amazing and as a newcomer it felt very welcoming, they all introduced themselves and included me in their conversations and circles.”

Actor Brendan McMurtry-Howlett of Shakespeare in the Ruff helped the teens explore how to make language come to life and make personal connections to the Bard’s words. Multi-discipline artist Cathy Elliott helped them brainstorm and paint their three 9-foot canvas backdrops together in groups. They also worked with actor Jamie Robinson, who helped each of the teens perfect their stage presence and voice!

Painting the backdrops! Photo by Dexter Coffey.

Painting the backdrops! Photo by Dexter Coffey.

On Monday, the campers met at the TSA to paint the backdrops, and through their discipline and teamwork they were rewarded with beautiful finished artworks by the end of the day. Costumes were made, script coaching happened throughout the day, and everyone was starting to feel confident in their roles.

Wednesday was our annual DAREarts Summer Camp trip to Stratford! With over half of the campers new to our summer programming, many had never been to the picturesque town or had even experienced live theatre. The trip began with a 2-hour drive from Toronto to Stratford, and upon arrival we were brought into the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s costume warehouse for a tour. The teens learned the history of many of the costumes, and were thrilled to be able to try on several pieces. After having lunch in the Festival Theatre park, we journeyed to the Avon Theatre to see Shakespeare in Love, followed by a Q&A with actors Brad Hodder and Ruby Joy. The day ended with a trip to Boston Pizza, where the teens had the chance to unwind and reflect on their experiences at Stratford. We then boarded the bus for the long journey home.

Adventures in the costume warehouse! Photo by Phill Snel.

Adventures in the costume warehouse! Photo by Phill Snel.

For their final rehearsal day, the teens were more inspired than ever to make their performance lively and powerful. They immersed themselves in the complex scenes, which included a full cast stage fight and plenty of snappy dialogue. On Friday morning, their performance day, the teens arrived an hour early to do two full run-throughs before the audience started arriving.

DAREarts Founder & President, Marilyn Field, welcomed the audience to the “hottest show in town,” and we were grateful to be joined by several VIPs including Davenport MP Julie Dzerowicz, TDSB Superintendent Annie Appleby, and TSA representatives Brian Bradstreet and Elizabeth D’Agostino.  The teens took to the “stage” and pulled our audience into the world of Shakespeare with perfect timing, zero missed lines, and flawless support of one another!

Praise & Maia prep to go on stage as Queen Elizabeth I and Viola de Lesseps! Photo by Catherine Guillaume.

Praise & Maia prep to go on stage as Queen Elizabeth I and Viola de Lesseps! Photo by Catherine Guillaume.

Our youth volunteer, Dexter, also took on a role in the performance himself. After the show, he reflected: “Everyone was very nervous and I had my doubts as the run-throughs still were a little stiff. But everyone pulled it together and all the transitions and sequences went really well. The end result was amazing and I’m so proud of all the campers for pulling this off in so little time. This was an honour to be a part of and seeing it turn out so well was truly amazing.”

After the show, a reception allowed the teens and their families to connect with us about their experience. One parent shared that her son needed this opportunity to take his skill with people to the next level.  Another noted that her child with Asperger’s had flourished in our program. The teens themselves congratulated each other on a job well done, and stayed in the gym far beyond the end of the reception. Our campers had a very diverse array of backgrounds, personalities, and home situations – including parental abuse, bullying, dyslexia, autism, Asperger’s, etc.  –  but DAREarts gave them all a common goal and a true sense of belonging and friendship.

We are so proud of our teens, and look forward to seeing what other incredible feats they can accomplish in such a short amount of time!

The DAREarts Campers with actors Ruby Joy and Brad Hodder! Photo by Brenda Norton.

The DAREarts Campers & Team with Stratford Festival actors Ruby Joy and Brad Hodder! Photo by Brenda Norton.

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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DAREarts Families Experience the TSO & Buffy Sainte-Marie!

DAREarts Thanks the TSO

Thanks to the generosity of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, 50 DAREarts children, volunteers, and families gathered in the lobby of Roy Thomson Hall on Thursday, June 30, the sense of anticipation and excitement palpable. They were there to see Buffy Sainte-Marie – a living legend and Indigenous icon who has been a musician, educator, activist and writer for over 50 years.

Accompanied by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Buffy’s powerful stage presence had the eyes and ears of DAREarts families glued to the stage, her music ranging from soaring rock anthems to gentle folk songs to spoken word to campfire singalongs, all underlined with her powerful message of Indigenous rights, care for the planet and for one another.

The R in “DARE” stands for Responsibility, a value that Buffy highlighted powerfully throughout the evening.  Acknowledging residential schools and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation commission, Buffy reminded us of our collective societal responsibility to work towards renewed relationships with our Indigenous communities.

After experiencing this incredibly inspiring evening of music, here is what our children and volunteers had to say:

“I enjoyed the atmosphere of the concert and ability for music to bridge the generational gap.” – Rosalyn, DAREarts youth

“I brought two of my children and my eight-year-old was on the edge of his seat. We loved seeing folk music backed up by the orchestra and I would come to see another show in a heartbeat. Thanks so much to for the generous donation of tickets. It allowed my children to experience something outside their usual exposure.” – Selby, volunteer

“We loved the concert. The fact that Buffy was on stage most of the time was amazing and that she sang most of the old songs. We were three generations and all loved it. The symphony was great and all around we had a great time.” – Gert

We’d like to thank the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for sharing this inspiring opportunity with our families!

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. Our lead sponsors are Northbridge Insurance, Scotiabank, TD Bank Groupand the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.