The importance of the arts in education and development is undeniable. In Ontario alone, the topic has been investigated extensively, with bodies like Ontario Arts Council, CBC, and People for Education repeatedly reporting on the impact of the arts on developing minds. Yet since 2018, it’s become abundantly clear that funding for arts education is not a priority, with many schools in Ontario increasingly relying on fundraisers and parents to fund their dwindling performing arts programs.
In response to this decline in arts education in schools, individuals are taking matters into their own hands across Canada and working to provide students with a space to flex their creativity, develop their language skills, and find their voice. How? Through an international franchise brand, Stagecoach Performing Arts.
Though Stagecoach is still an emerging name in the Canadian arts industry, the company has been building an impressive global reputation over the past 30 years. Focused on their motto of “Creative Courage for Life,” Stagecoach now operates in eight countries, with more than 3,000 schools around the world and over 300 passionate franchisees working hard to provide children with opportunities to unearth their creativity and shine. Over one million students have passed through Stagecoach’s performing arts programs, with more than 55,000 students attending classes every week.
Take Amanda Mariani, a Stagecoach principal in Westmount, Quebec. Mariani has been involved in the performing arts since her youth, having attended a performing arts school as a child. Born and raised in Montreal, she went on to study theatre at John Abbott College before completing a degree in kindergarten and elementary education at McGill University. As both an artist and teacher, Mariani understands firsthand how beneficial the performing arts are in helping children develop their confidence while learning language and communication skills.
“The performing arts are all about self-expression and embracing individuality,” she said in a 2022 interview with Stagecoach. “My classes [in school] helped shape who I am today. I learnt to accept myself and those around me, and that still has a positive influence on my mindset to this day.”
This positive mindset and love of creative spaces is what drove Mariani, an experienced teacher, to open a Stagecoach school in the Montreal neighbourhood of Westmount-NDG. Her school operates on weekends, offering two Early Stages sessions for children 4-6 years, and one Main Stages session for youths 6-16. The Main Stages students are split into three groups based on their age: each group focuses on age-appropriate performance techniques, storytelling, and having fun!
Part of Stagecoach’s proven methodology is their Educational Framework, which provides franchisees with a base curriculum and set of goals for each group of students. This structure enables owners to play to their teachers’ and students’ strengths, providing the best possible environment for learning and creativity.
“The ability to personalize students’ learning is part of what I love about Stagecoach,” Mariani said. “I can adapt the Educational Framework to suit the needs of the students in the school. Having this flexibility around learning means we can ensure each of our students will thrive.”
For Mariani, choosing timely creative content for her students to play in and explore isn’t the only reward. Today, she manages a team of five teachers who lead the classes at her school, and she finds that supporting them has given her the creative freedom as an education administrator that she sought as an artist.
“I love developing teachers and creating an environment where they can work, unrestricted, to educate and nurture young people,” Mariani told Stagecoach. “Building my team of specialists is so rewarding and I do all I can to support them. I love structure, so spending time creating templates and processes to help my teachers feels so satisfying. As a teacher myself, I know how much of a difference well-planned resources make.”
Running the school means I have time for my hobbies as well as my work.
For franchisees, Stagecoach offers not only the opportunity to own and operate their own business, but to optimize their work-life balance. They’re able to select the days their school operates, with differing levels of investment opportunities to suit different time and budget levels. Stagecoach has worked hard to create an accessible, rewarding framework for their franchisees: and for Mariani, who taught in Canada and Dubai for years before opening her Stagecoach school, the franchise offered her a support system that would prove to be invaluable.
“It was actually my uncle who sent me details about Stagecoach”,” she said. “He had seen it online and I immediately knew it would be perfect for me. It’s exactly what I wanted to do. As an established franchise, the business model was already outlined for me so I could focus on what I love most: sharing my passion for the performing arts.”
All new franchisees undertake a comprehensive digital training course before receiving ongoing training and regular check-ins with key members of the head office support team. This training includes industry-leading support in marketing, customer service, IT, and business development: tools a Stagecoach owner needs to create a safe and successful space for their students.
“I feel so included and cared about. I’m confident I can ask for help and I always get a quick response.”
Mariani has big plans for her future, and the future of her students at the Westmount-NDG school. With a thirst for knowledge and a self-described “zest for life,” Mariani hopes to expand to more schools, providing educational arts opportunities for even more children. But even with the increased responsibility of multiple schools, she knows that the foundation and support provided by Stagecoach will allow her to maintain the work-life balance that is often difficult to attain in the education and arts industries.
“I love learning about the world we live in. I like to stay grounded: time to enjoy working, learning, and resting is crucial, and it’s part of what attracted me to Stagecoach. Running the school means I have time for my hobbies as well as my work.”
Mariani recognizes the importance of her local arts community, and she has a strong drive to continue to give back through the arts.
“I have lived in Montreal all my life, and being able to learn about the people who make my home such an inspiring place is such a privilege,” Mariani said. “As well as educating students in my school, I hope to put on performances for those in the local area to enjoy. Giving back to the community is so important to me.”
“So far, I am absolutely loving my Stagecoach journey and have so much energy for what’s to come. I hope to be able to offer after school programmes and weekday classes. Watching tiny humans act, sing and dance is the best thing in the entire world and I want to involve as many young people in Stagecoach as possible.”
To find out more about Stagecoach and the creative and business opportunities they offer, visit www.stagecoachfranchise.com.
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