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In collaboration with The Musical Autist, Peabody’s Sensory Friendly Performance Project provides a pre-formed undergraduate or graduate Conservatory chamber ensemble with the opportunity to plan, rehearse and execute an interactive performance experience which is fully accessible to those on the autism spectrum. Ensemble members will be mentored by Kerry Devlin, Peabody faculty member and neurologic music therapist, and will have the opportunity to collaborate with Maryland’s Musical Autist on all aspects of programming, interactive activities, performance format, venue preparation, and delivery. Performers receive a $200 stipend at the conclusion of all activities.

The Sensory Friendly Performance Project is a collaboration with The Musical Autist, whose mission is to provide access to the arts and platforms for self-advocacy for musicians of all ages and abilities on the autism spectrum. This is accomplished by creating places in the community where the arts and people on the autism spectrum are celebrated and accepted.

Musical Autist events promote neurodiversity by creating an environment that makes music accessible for an audience with a wide range of sensory differences. Removing barriers to participation that are standard at traditional concerts does not diminish the quality of the performance, nor how the performance is received. Instead, greater accessibility empowers the audience to embrace a wider understanding of inclusivity, acknowledging the broad range of human perceptions and diverse expressions of participation possible from engagement in high-quality musical experiences.

Some of the differences that are structured into Musical Autist events are a broader range of acceptable mobility, a more accepting approach to superficial audience noises, and an intentional encouragement of audience engagement. Performers are asked to share their music in a more personal manner, explaining their own connections to the performance, describing distinct elements of the pieces, or explaining elements of the music or sound production which may more fully inform the listening audience. It may be helpful to carefully select repertoire that provide opportunities for audience engagement, emotional connection, and at times, stimulate movement. Concerts typically last about 45 minutes and may close with a guest performance from Musical Autist program attendees.

The performance space will be structured to allow attendees to personalize their sound experience by moving closer or further away from the performer or utilizing noise reduction headphones if preferred. A separate sensory regulation space will be available and staffed by trained volunteers. When possible, Musical Autist volunteers will also provide and direct opportunities for self-expression to be available or integrated into the performance. Audience members may move freely in their chairs or around the room throughout the performance, using movement scarves or foam blocks for visual and/or tactile input.

Musical Autist’s vision to celebrate and accept people on the autism spectrum dictates that normal sounds of movement and appreciation during the performance are welcomed, though the audience will be asked to refrain from conversation. Performers should anticipate and respect sounds, such as loud vocalizations, that may come from the audience and continue their performance as planned. The Musical Autist’s events frequently draw audience members who themselves are Musical Autists, and the expectation is that the performer(s) will be open to conversing and sharing musical exchanges informally at the end of the performance.

Eligibility and Requirements

  • Chamber ensemble of any instrumentation consisting of no more than 5 participants
  • Participation in all required coaching and performance activities as outlined to receive stipend
  • Completion of all assignments to incorporate feedback from mentor
  • Experience with public speaking and audience engagement during performance

Application Instructions and Timeline

Sensory Friendly Performance Project application deadline is February 22, 2021.

Applications can be found here and will include the following:

  • Proposed concert program (45 minutes) with title and pieces no longer than 6 minutes each.
  • Please indicate 2 places within the program that could involve audience participation (i.e., movement, clapping, listening for a particular theme or sound, conversation about instruments in the ensemble, etc)
  • A brief (3-5 minute) video demonstrating interpersonal and performance skills. The video should include: A) a verbal introduction of your ensemble, including why you’re applying for this opportunity, and B) performance of one musical selection from your proposed program, including audience engagement element

For further information, please contact Aubree Weiley, Manager of Community Partnerships.