Sensory-Friendly Return of “Horton the Elephant”

Boulder’s Public Library hosted another sensory-friendly concert with the Boulder Philharmonic’s String Quartet, with me as emcee and solo singer. This concert series is gaining momentum and providing an important service to the community. As I said in my introduction:  “We all want to feel included, comfortable, and able to enjoy a performance without feeling stress. For families dealing with autism and other different abilities, (and for those with wiggly young children), going to a concert of live classical music may not happen much. And yet, music has a profound and positive effect on us.”

“When I was little, for example, my autism often kept me isolated in a non-verbal, self-stimulating world – but music would somehow reach me, like a magical wake-up fairy, and I’d come out of my fog, wanting to listen and feel. Music was my avenue into gaining language and, later on, it became my connection to other people – especially through singing together and playing instruments.”

One hallmark of our SF concerts is the large-screen background of vividly projected slides showing photos and works of art that illustrate and support what’s being said and played. It makes for a deeper connection and understanding, and has been a big part of my autism presentations all these years – my mom simply took the concept right on into the concert hall and it makes for a unique experience.

Above is a photo we used to support my introduction. Later on, I shared the following, along with numerous photos:  “It so happens, I also play the violin, as well as many other instruments, and have loved performing in the Boulder youth orchestras over the years. I started on violin when I was three years old, and that was a big part of my autism therapy—working on focus and coordination, and all kinds of other skills.”


“I also love to sing. In fact, several years ago, I played the lead-role of Horton the Elephant in a show called “Seussical.” Horton is different from the other animals – just like me with my autism – and he gets laughed at and teased… But he’s a deeply caring and loyal elephant, and when he discovers a tiny world of Beings living on a bright pink clover blossom, he befriends them. Horton becomes their special protector and helps all the other jungle animals to recognize and become accepting towards these tiny Beings.”

“In the same caring way, Horton takes on protecting a Bird-friend’s abandoned egg until it hatches. He has promised to do so, and he’s determined to remain faithful and supportive. You will hear Horton singing about all this in the song coming up. This wonderful story of a caring and unusual elephant runs parallel to all of us here, recognizing, accepting, and celebrating the beauty of our differences – thus, we make the world a better place!”


I loved performing the medley of Horton-Songs that my mom arranged and transposed especially for me. The role of Horton has always been close to my heart; revisiting it was a treat. (See more: )

A final, key component of these SF concerts is the close interaction between performers and audience members afterwards. Kids get to talk with us on stage, and may be invited to touch the instruments or watch up-close as a musician demonstrates something upon request. This time, we also had lots of camera crews, filming and then interviewing afterwards – Channel 7 is planning a piece, and other videographers are creating short documentary clips for the Boulder Phil. Thank you to all – it’s a privilege to be part of the “sensory-friendly movement!”


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