Over the past two weeks, our blog posts have included a great deal of information about sensory-friendly performances, including past shows here in Pittsburgh. Today, I’m very excited to share more details about our very own sensory-friendly concert. We can hardly wait until we have the chance to present this program in June! PSO Resident Conductor Larry Loh summed up all of our feelings about the performance when he recently told me he “looks forward to warmly welcoming our audience to a concert filled with a variety of exciting and beautiful music played by one of the world’s greatest orchestras, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra!”
As you can now see on our website, this “variety of exciting and beautiful music” includes a mix of energetic, relaxing, popular, and classical favorites. The selections will highlight the versatility of the PSO and the diverse talents of our guest artists. At our concert, we don’t just want to celebrate the artists on stage, however; we also want to celebrate the artistic abilities of our audience members. Because of this, we will ask audience members to actively participate in the concert by conducting the orchestra from their seats during The Stars and Stripes Forever and singing along as vocalist Katy Williams and the PSO perform Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Our pre-concert activities will also give patrons the chance to experiment with percussion instruments and explore their kinesthetic senses through movement and dance activities. With all of these features, we hope the concert truly celebrates the abilities of all of our artists and patrons!
Listen to our “Celebrate Pittsburgh” playlist on Spotify to hear some of the music the orchestra will perform. Since the Spotify catalogue doesn’t have recordings of all the specific arrangements selected for the concert, the playlist is an approximation, rather than an exact replica, of what you can expect to hear at the event. Visit the PSO website in early June to find additional preparatory materials, including pre-visit stories, tip sheets, and venue maps, and gain a better idea of what to expect at the concert.
To ensure that we create the optimal experience for our patrons, we are collaborating with members our Accessibility Advisory Committee and Roger Ideishi, JD, OT/L, FAOTA, Associate Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at Temple University. Our committee members, who represent organizations serving a variety of individuals in the Pittsburgh community, will provide guidance throughout the program planning process. Dr. Ideishi will help his graduate students create pre-concert materials for patrons; train our musicians, staff, and volunteers the day of the concert; and work with us to develop surveys so that we can gather feedback and learn from our audience. In addition to receiving training immediately before the concert, musicians will work with professionals to prepare for sensory-friendly school and community visits in the months leading up to the show.
Ultimately, we hope that all of our efforts will create a welcoming, inclusive, and relaxed environment for patrons of all ages and abilities. All of us at the PSO, including our musicians, are very enthusiastic about serving patrons in a new way through this concert. Our Principal Contrabassoon, Jim Rodgers, recently told me:
It will be great to reach the audience members on their terms, where they feel comfortable. I’m looking forward to allowing them to fully experience the beauty and power of what our orchestra has to offer. It is a high honor to create a context that’s comfortable and allows people to enjoy our music in a friendly setting. I think this is incredible.
On behalf of everyone at the PSO, I’d like to invite you to come see our sensory-friendly performance on June 27. Visit pittsburghsymphony.org/sensoryfriendly to learn more about the concert or purchase tickets. We hope to see you there!