Give Kids the Chance to Explore Arts and Creativity
After one piano lesson at age seven, Jeffery Straker was hooked on music.
Recalling his younger days living in Punnichy, a rural community in Saskatchewan, Straker shares how his mother – who was also a piano player – enrolled him (and his siblings) in piano lessons. “I was hooked as a kid from that first piano lesson! I remember how that feels, it’s just like you discover a whole part of your body you didn’t know that was there,” he says. “I simply now would not be a music maker or a creator if I didn’t have that early exposure.”
Now in his 40s, he has been a professional singer, song writer, and pianist for the last 15 years. He has gone on to perform over 100 shows per year across Canada, Europe and Latin America. “These all stem from me having the opportunity to have been exposed to music, through piano lessons in a small town in Saskatchewan, when I was a kid.”
Straker is thankful for his mother and piano teachers who have had a huge impact in his musical career. He notes that if his parents did not have the financial means to support his music lessons, he wouldn’t have been able to explore the arts. “There are thousands of Saskatchewan children and youth whose parents do not have the financial means to enroll them in creative lessons,” he says adding that a family’s financial status should not be a barrier for children who wish to explore the arts.
“We’ve created more opportunities for kids to explore sports so we have more kids excelling in sports, but if we created more opportunities for kids to explore the arts, we would have more kids excelling in the arts – it’s that simple!” he adds. “There is, without a doubt, kids out there who love to create, love dance, love painting … but they won’t know if they are interested if they are not given a chance and so that exposure is critical.”
As a songwriter and singer, Straker says, arts, creativity and culture allow him to express his feelings, ideas, and views that will hopefully make people think and become better people. “I take pride in getting a response from someone saying ‘I loved your song because it really made me think’ or ‘it really questions something’. To me, that’s what this is all about, but I think our job as an artist is to reflect society back to itself.”
He goes on to add that programs such as Creative Kids should receive more support since it helps give kids the opportunity to try an art form [or other creative activity] and see if they love it. “It gives kids the chance to realize that the arts are for them and not given that opportunity, what we end up missing out on is the next great artist from the province, in fact, the next greatest artist in the world that we don’t know yet, but we have to create opportunities to discover them.”