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Children’s speech arts festival: Conservatory outreach builds confidence, self-esteem

Mount Royal Conservatory Speech Arts faculty members Jennifer Orr and Grant Paterson adjudicated at Applause 2014 children's speech arts festival April 2 and 3, 2014. The Leacock Theatre is offered free of charge to the 26-year-old event.
Mount Royal Conservatory Speech Arts faculty members Jennifer Orr and Grant Paterson adjudicate at Applause 2014 children’s speech and drama festival April 2 and 3. The Leacock Theatre is offered free of charge for the annual event.

With poems about pulling pigtails, dismal dinnertimes and other silly stories, Calgary’s only elementary school speech arts festival took centre stage at the Conservatory this week.

Applause 2014, a students’ speech and drama festival held April 2 and 3 in Mount Royal’s Leacock Theatre, was packed with 750 school children from all quadrants of the city.

Now in its 26th year, the Applause festival is a non-competitive speech arts event hosted by Mount Royal Conservatory since 1988. The festival offers elementary school students their own arena for developing performance skills on stage.

The children’s festival is a unique partnership between the Conservatory, the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District.

And to ensure this beloved festival keeps thriving, the theatre is offered to the schools free of charge  – the only outside event that receives the Conservatory’s donation.

“The Conservatory has always supported us. We couldn’t do it otherwise,” said event organizer Marilyn de Waal.

“It is, to me, the most memorable thing children can be involved in. It’s a group effort, so if someone has low self-esteem they have their friends beside them,” said de Waal, who operates Words Alive.

MusicMakers Speech Arts
MusicMakers Speech Arts

“They really learn what good speech is at an early age, and they carry that with them through their school presentations. They’re not as fearful to get up in social studies class.”

Students are learning invaluable skills: memorizing poems and stories, incorporating drama, enunciating, and becoming entertainers. Students also write reviews to praise school performances and offer encouragement and constructive feedback. Sometimes, they send candy, too.

Organizers say being on stage is special for students, who create memories and delight in listening to storytelling.

They agree that the Conservatory’s community outreach is making a difference in children’s lives.

Conservatory faculty act as adjudicators, said Jennifer Orr, instructor and coordinator for the Conservatory’s Speech Arts and Drama Program.

“Teaching young people to care about words and ideas and how you say them is a powerful thing — it’s what we do here and we are happy to encourage teachers who do it in schools.”

This summer, the Conservatory is offering MusicMakers summer camp for children 5-9.

Registration is open now for the Aug. 11-15 camp, which Inspires children to sing, dance, act, play and create!

Learn more about our year-round Speech Arts programming here.

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