On Saturday, November 3, TMA had our fall Sensory Friendly Concert. We had an improvisational piano player named Robert Hitz who performed for us. During the performance, the SFC committee chairperson, Ann-Marie, showed some pictures on the screen. Robert Hitz asked the audience members questions about the pictures and created a storyline that helped direct his improvisational performance on the piano. One of the pictures that was being shown asked the question, “What does acceptance mean to you?” At the end of the concert, TMA Troupe performed “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara. We had a lot of fun performing this song and changed the words to fit our mission; our new lyrics talked about embracing differences and beauty.
Watch Musical Autist Troupe’s performance here:
TMA has been doing Sensory Friendly Concerts since 2011. In these concerts, we provide accommodations, such as noise-reduction headphones, a sensory quiet room, and scarves so that people can move around and vocalize. A Sensory Friendly Concert is similar to a normal concert because side conversations are not permitted during the performance; however, autistic vocalizations are to be respected and accepted. This is not like a normal concert venue where people have to sit still and clap when they’re supposed to during the course of the performance. If someone in the audience needs to be more stimulated by sound, they can come to the front of the room. However, if the person in the audience is overwhelmed by sound, they can sit more towards the back of the room. We do not use any type of sound amplification for this reason.
Sensory Friendly Concerts are just one of the three programs that TMA has to offer. Our other two programs are Troupe and Empowerment Jam Sessions. Troupe is an inclusive environment where we come together and share songs and practice for performances. Empowerment Jam Sessions are similarly inclusive, though we invite community members to join us for improvisational performances and song shares. We had a lot of people attend our concert this past weekend. I think that the room at the college was almost filled up. Everyone had a great time coming to the concert to listen to Robert perform on the piano.
When I attend these concerts, I feel that I can express myself freely. In the professional world, it is not okay to flap your hands or move around. At a Sensory Friendly Concert, these movements are accepted. These concerts allow me to express how I’m really feeling inside. I feel that I am engaging socially and musically during the performance. I still remember my first Sensory Friendly Concert, which took place in July 2011. My co-founder CJ Shiloh knew a mutual friend of mine from church, and I performed with him at this concert.
Sensory Friendly Concerts are a way that everyone— whether you are autistic or not— can participate in movement and social interactions with various performers. Sensory Friendly Concerts are accessible to autistic people so that they can move around and vocalize when they have to. It is my desire that Sensory Friendly Concerts should be reproduced not just in this community but everywhere abroad. These concerts enable autistic people to be empowered and enjoy making music with their friends and family. I believe that Sensory Friendly Concerts will benefit every single autistic person who attends them. This is a great opportunity for autistic people and everyone else to enjoy music in a sensory friendly environment. Let us all strive to make concerts more sensory friendly so that every autistic person can participate in them. Sensory Friendly Concerts should happen everywhere so that all people can have fun, move around, and fully participate in concerts that are accessible to everyone.