My newest outreach efforts – sensory friendly concerts! I just had a blast performing for a lively, enthusiastic audience of families dealing with autism at the Boulder Public Library auditorium—a beautiful and elegant space. My mom has worked on getting a collaboration with the Boulder Philharmonic onto the stage for nearly two years, and it was an overwhelming success, with every seat spoken for and a waiting list to boot.
So, what made this concert “sensory friendly”? We used soft lighting and chose music that was neither too loud nor emotionally overwhelming, and we encouraged kids to move around if it helped them enjoy the music more. Families could bring favorite sensory objects to provide support, and I invited our little listeners up on stage for a more intimate connection to the musicians. Kids and their parents didn’t have to stress out, trying to sit still and be quiet—we all accepted that this classical concert would have an “at home,” relaxed feel. The welcoming attitude is key; when asked whether sounds and movements coming from the audience wouldn’t be a distraction, the Boulder Phil’s music director, Michael Butterman, pointed out how rewarding the obvious expressions of enjoyment can be. Here’s the Daily Camera article:
For me, the highlight was singing “Pure Imagination” accompanied by the Boulder Philharmonic’s string quartet—I love this song and its lyrics about finding paradise in our everyday lives. We truly can use imagination to change our world; that’s what my mom has done with me, envisioning a positive future, imagining possibilities and working towards these, every day, regardless of challenges. For this concert, I was also the MC, telling stories about my childhood and showing photos, introducing some of the quartet’s pieces and relating my personal connections to the music. The program focused on compositions expressing various emotions, and the quartet played wonderful pieces by Haydn, Dvorak, Mendessohn, and also a few arrangements of favorite movie music—a fabulous performance by professionals, for our special autism community and the public at large…