Music Breaking Barriers: A Sensory Friendly Concert

by Sara McCrea on May 16, 2016 in Student News for Fairview’s Royal Banner

Sometimes a person’s passion is so powerful that it can bring people together and break barriers. When Benjamin Tarasewicz graduated last semester from Fairview, he and his mother, Malva Tarasewicz, started an incredibly powerful project where they use music to do just this. On Saturday, May 28th, at Manhattan Middle School, there will be a program with a screening of Benjamin’s TED-talk and a concert put together by Benjamin and Malva that includes many current Fairview students. “The name we gave it is Music Breaking Barriers because we want to bridge the gap between people who have special needs and people who don’t,” explained Malva.

Benjamin has always had a deep love for music and has been very involved in the music programs here at Fairview. In fact, many of the songs he and his friends will be performing are pieces that he auditioned and performed as filler-acts for Fairview choir concerts. Favorites include quartets such as And So It Goes, Unchained Melody, and other 1950’s and 60’s hits. When asked how he liked working with his friends at Fairview, a big smile spread across Benjamin’s face. “I love it. It’s just the best,” he said.

rehearsing HopeMalva conducts Benjamin and some of his friends in Malva’s composition “Hope” (photo by Sara McCrea)

Music has had a big influence on Benjamin’s life, and he wants to share his love of music with others and to make a difference through it. “Part of it is that you don’t have to understand words or have language [as is often the case with autism]. Music is a very visceral thing that all of us connect with,” said Malva.

The opportunity for the concert came in an unexpected place: as Benjamin and Malva had been attending another acapella concert at Boulder Public Library. “One day, last November, we went to the library for a concert and, in the audience, we met a guy who runs a nonprofit called Chase the Music. It’s all about commissioning a new [work of music] for someone with either a dire health issue or a special need,” said Benjamin. The organization is a 501c3 nonprofit based in Lyons, Colorado. It was started by Clark Hodge.

“His tag line is, ‘Music for healing, Music with feeling.’ Everyone that’s gotten involved with this project is really excited about it because the idea is that music really bridges a gap and can heal people,” said Malva. “When musicians are performing a piece that they know has been composed for that particular person, there is a very different feeling on stage. You’re really giving a gift, and there’s a different energy between the performers and the listeners because everyone is aware of the gift.”

There’s something about music that helps connect people like nothing else. Because Malva is a professional violinist and has her doctorate in music, it plays a large role in the mother/son relationship and has been huge part of Benjamin’s time at school. “[Fairview students] are an essential part of it because so much of Benjamin’s experience at Fairview was in the music department. He started creating filler-acts when he was a sophomore and has made social connections through music here. We couldn’t do this program without them,” said Malva. Through the process, the Fairview students say they have learned a lot. “Music can be calming and restorative to the soul,” said junior Cooper Lajeunesse.

The finale of the concert is an eight-part classical piece titled Hope which Malva composed herself. It will be sung by Benjamin and students Jillian Shively, Annika Stahli, Carrie Douglass, Julia Jenak, Emma Kolbrener, Libby Williams, Brandon Warren, Cooper Lajeunesse, and  Brendan Lutes. Malva spoke about the techniques she used in crafting the work. “The poetry I wrote is very nature based because Benjamin and I are very connected with animals and nature. The music really tries to express the emotions in the poetry. It uses a technique called ‘word painting,’ which basically means the music and the words relate and connect…It’s a lot like scores in movies that are trying to paint a picture with music,” said Malva.

The free concert will be sensory friendly, meaning that – for people with special needs – the performance will have a manageable amount of sensory stimuli, which is important for people who can be overwhelmed by intensely flashing lights or loud noises. It will take place on Saturday, May 28th at 2:00. People with and without special needs are welcome to attend; it is a sensory-friendly event with excellent wheelchair access and accommodations.

by Sara McCrea for the Royal Banner

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