Vicars grad takes centre stage with Peter Martin Award

What does a musical theatre actor and registered massage therapist do when she receives a major massage therapy award?

April Cook. Image credit: 10 Talent Management

When that person is April Cook, she makes sure all of the “supporting cast” shares the stage. For April, the 2022 Massage Therapy Association of Alberta’s (MTAA) Peter Martin Award winner, the supporting cast includes her family and friends, classmates, mentors and “the kind, patient, inspirational and knowledgeable instructors” that she had as a student at Vicars School of Massage Therapy.

Originally from Prince Edward Island, April has been singing and dancing since she was three years old. As a young adult, she trained at New York City’s American Musical and Dramatic Academy and worked professionally all across the country. Although performing has been her chosen path since she was young, she grew increasingly interested in helping others. After her father passed away in 2011, that desire to provide comfort and help to people who need it most became a motivation.

In 2020, April, now married and living in Calgary, decided to follow her heart, and enrolled at Vicars School of Massage Therapy.

While she loved learning massage therapy, April found the impacts of Covid and the necessity of working full time while going to school challenging. She took a break after first year to perform in a musical and decided to take monthly classes when she returned for her second year. “I really enjoyed the four days of focused learning and then having three weeks between to work at my own pace,” she says. “It allowed me more space to absorb all the information.”

April is the third Vicars School of Massage Therapy graduate to receive the annual Peter Martin Award, which is given for accomplishments in the recipient’s first year as a practicing RMT, and their dedication to advancing the profession in

Alberta. April plans to use the $750 prize to cover the cost of student loans and continuing education courses.

Corliss Robertson, one of April’s instructors and a reference for her Peter Martin Award application, says that April’s professionalism, her thirst for learning, and her contagious positive energy make her most deserving of this honour. Corliss singles out April’s excellence in the school’s Special Populations Clinic. “April really demonstrated her ability to make each one of her clients ‘heard’ and ultimately feel better.”

Vicars’ Special Populations Clinic welcomes people of all ages—from infants to seniors—and people living with mobility issues, cognitive disabilities, and complex conditions such as cerebral palsy and spinal muscular atrophy.

April’s “aha” moment happened when she started in the clinic. “I realized that I was passionate about massage therapy,” she says. “When I’m working with special populations, it requires more education, more confidence, and more listening, and gives me the opportunity to create an even greater connection with the client.” That for April, is what sparks real joy. And it continues to be the focus of her practice.

After graduating last October, April worked for a company in Calgary that specializes in treating people with special conditions, with a focus on pediatric care. While she loved the work and the people, she’d always known that she wanted to start her own business. At the beginning of March this year, April opened the doors to Kind Heart Wellness, located within Evolve Strength in Royal Oak in Northwest

Calgary. “I offer treatments at my clinic and also mobile treatments for those who either prefer it or require it, because I want massage therapy to be accessible for everyone,” she says.

April credits the flexibility and financial stability of her massage therapy practice for enabling her to continue performing in musical theatre. She also sees how her theatre background benefits her massage therapy practice. “You can’t be either an actor or a good massage therapist without being a good listener, being empathetic, and staying calm and confident,” she says. “Because of my dancing, I know my body really well and can relate to people when they have aches and pains.”

“I really love that as a performer, I feel that I have this gift that I can share with others,” says April. “And now I have this whole wealth of massage therapy knowledge and skills that can benefit everyone. To me this is just so rewarding.”

April will be in a Stage West Calgary production of 9 To 5 The Musical, running from April 21 to June 25, 2023.

Kathleen Thurber
Author: Kathleen Thurber

Kathleen Thurber is an Edmonton-based health and science writer.