The first Sensory-Friendly Concert of 2012 will be Saturday, March 17th at 6:30pm.
So who is headlining?
Our very own…the very first…official “Autism-Friendly Artist,” Joseph Bowens!
So who is Joseph Bowens? And how does he relate to The Musical Autist?
Why thank you for asking! :^)
This question is well deserving of a little short story.
In August of 2010, my music studio was filling up, and thriving with awesome kiddos on the autism spectrum. Having been a piano teacher for many years, and knowing the ins-n-outs of recitals, competitions, and providing for my students exposure to the fine arts – particularly live jazz and classical concerts in the DC/MD area, I simply could not make peace with the fact that my students on the spectrum, for the most part, were socially excluded from these types of activities.
I love my students, and this greatly bothered me! I remember very well, how live music fed my “musical brain” as a child, and I wanted to do the same for my students. I grew up with my piano teacher taking ME to live classical music concerts, but only because I proved that I could sit still…*perfectly still.*
Also, being a teacher in the public school system, I know full well that INCLUSION is not just the latest buzz word, it is a necessity for kids on the spectrum.
My mind was (and still is) constantly trying to wrap itself around topics such as “autism prevalence increase” and “neurodiversity” and “inclusion,” and how such topics will continue to implicate our culture and society as a whole.
But how do these big words and concepts translate into applicable ways that I can give opportunity for my students on the spectrum in the fine arts? Even more, I was thinking…. EVERYBODY on the autism spectrum deserves equal access to the fine arts, ACROSS THE LIFESPAN. I didn’t want to do just another great thing for cute kids with disabilities. We all know that kids grow up to be adults.
All of this was transpiring in August of 2010, right before I started my 5-hr-total of daily commuting to Shenandoah University, to receive my credentials as certified music therapist. Already having a Bachelors in Music, this was my only option, in terms of getting my MT-BC credential. This is also the smartest (and most challenging) thing I’ve ever set out to do, in terms of serving my exceptional students with special needs (not just autism, although that’s the majority).
So this is where 5 factors collided and gave birth to my brainchild-blog, “The Musical Autist” as well as the first “Sensory-Friendly Concerts.”
(#1) After 10 years of layman’s studies (reading whatever I could find online and checking books in libraries) in both autism and the field music therapy, (#2) determinedly connecting with every neurodiversity and music therapist blogger out there (a fairly small number, back in 2010), (#3) realizing the boom in online communication because of social media, and (#4) in all my googling, never finding exactly what I was looking for and dreaming of….I realized one thing:
Instead of demanding from society that my music students be welcome in formal concert venues, despite their very autistic “rocking and hand-flapping” behaviors, why not bring the fine arts musicians to us? After all, Autism Society and AMC Theatres had been successfully launching “Sensory-Friendly Films,” and I had been nominated to receive a Hometown Hero Award from my local chapter of Autism Society that school year, so I wondered if they also might support me in doing “Sensory-Friendly Concerts” (which they did last year)….
While all of these events and ideas were transpiring, in walked the final factor (#5)….where The Musical Autist, as a concept, truly began.
I was meandering around Guitar Center one day, back in August of 2010, when I was stopped still in my tracks by the most beautiful sound of a Chopin Etude in the adjoining room. I listened intently for quite a long time, just out of sight. I began to realize I was listening to a true piano virtuoso. His playing went from Monk, to Liszt, to Peterson, to Beethoven…. I finally entered the room, moved to tears, and thanked this fellow for giving me some musical-soul-food, that I didn’t even know I had so desperately been needing that particular day.
He kindly introduced himself as Joseph Bowens.
We chitchatted for awhile… he is from Baltimore, a Christ-follower like me, in his early 20’s, and an extremely interesting fact is that he only began playing the piano when he was 17. (!!!) He is now a student at Peabody Conservatory of Music.
I asked him if he knew anything about autism, and if he’d be willing to play a concert for a few of my students and other people in our local community with special needs.
He said, “yes, yes absolutely.” It was a divine appointment.
And now here we are today. :^)
Saturday, March 17th, at 6:30pm, we will have Joseph Bowens perform, along with several other local musicians who are interested in becoming The Musical Autist’s “Special-Needs-Friendly-Artists.” And of course, we will have some performances by “Resident Musical Autists.”
We are only doing FOUR Sensory-Friendly Concerts this year.
March 17th, June 16th, Sept 15th, and Dec 15th, all falling on the third Saturday of those months. We will have all sorts of different jazz and classical artists come perform for us.
If you are local, mark your calendars! If you are trans-local, follow us and encourage us! Ask us how you can do this in your own area. We are strong believers in self-sustaining local community.
Thank you for taking the time to read our blog, we’d love to hear your comments.
Christy Joy Shiloh