A post by CJ Shiloh:
When you buy a ticket to go to a fine arts concert, like a symphony hall or a formal jazz club, whether you realize it or not, you are paying for a social atmosphere. Yes of course you are paying to hear the artist, but you are also paying for quiet surroundings in which you can truly attend to, and engage in, the music. You might feel you have the right to hush the person behind you who is rudely talking or won’t stop clearing their throat. And you would be right, because you paid good money for that ticket. You might just give them a dirty look and hope they get the hint, or you might have to bring it to the attention of an usher, who would then ask that person to please be quiet or they will be asked to leave.
There’s really nothing wrong with this at all. Live music is beauty, which deserves to be admired on this sort of “mental pedestal.” This is why art museums should also be very quiet. We find this social etiquette most often in the genres of classical and jazz. Music of the fine arts deserves this type of respect and showcase. These artists have been practicing their instruments anywhere from 1 to 8 hours every day for the majority of their lives, I mean come on let’s give a little respect!
But here is where I find a problem. These types of public venues are inaccessible to those who are not able to sit still and be quiet. Live music of the fine arts is becoming elusive to the growing number of people in our society on the autism spectrum. And that is not. cool. That is why the idea of SensoryFriendly Concerts was born, and has developed into a construct which falls within the category of Community Music Therapy. That’s why this blog, The Musical Autist, was born, and why it has evolved into a nonprofit organization.
It costs a lot of money to go hear a performance in a jazz club or concert hall. I’ve happily paid $75 for one ticket to go see John Scofield at Blues Alley in DC, or Evgeny Kissin at the Meyerhoff in Baltimore. Experiencing great live music is a gift that is WORTH the money of a ticket. For me personally, I can think of certain concerts I’ve been to that have changed my life forever. I am lucky, because I had the “social skills” and sensory mechanics which enabled me to sit perfectly still, anywhere from 1 to 3 hours.
If I did not have this ability to sit very still and very quiet, I would not have had those life changing experience.
As so many are starting to realize, autism is not a disease which needs to be “cured” or “extinguished.” Yes, it is a disability, and it needs to be respected and accommodated just like any other person with a disability. Support services across the lifespan are absolutely vital! It is time to create social environments where autistic behaviors are accepted. Awareness is simply not enough, awareness does not necessarily promote respect and acceptance. Think of rocking and hand-flapping as the “new normal.”
There are many music therapists out there who are interested in what we are doing here, and interested in facilitating SensoryFriendly Concerts in their own areas. SensoryFriendly Concerts are community events which support and develop autistic culture. They showcase the achievements of music therapy clients and other people in the community who are on the spectrum. They serve as a platform for self-advocacy. They provide equal access to the fine arts.
Because we want SensoryFriendly Concerts to be accessible to everyone, we want them to be free. The top notch performing artists that we can get, are still WORTH that high price that they are worth. They still need to get paid. That’s part of supporting the arts! That’s why, to keep this going, it’s going to take fundraising, it’s going to take grant writing and it’s going to take people donating. (There are little “digital tip jars” around the site here now. hint hint.)
To be perfectly honest with you, I really don’t want to make a pitch for donations. I believe the work we are doing will speak for itself. I believe it will take people realizing we need to focus our spending efforts on support services and community events, instead of throwing all our money at multimillion dollar autism research groups. Let’s start to turn the tide. Support services and community events along the lifespan!!
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