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Heartstrings

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Pacific Symphony joins The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders to celebrate this month-long effort to highlight the growing need for awareness of autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
As part of the Symphony’s Heartstrings Music and Wellness initiative, which aims to make classical music accessible to those who may not be able to attend traditional venues, the two organizations are working together to provide positive musical experiences for families affected by autism.





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Heartstrings

Partners

April is National Autism Awareness Month!

Pacific Symphony joins The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders to celebrate this month-long effort to highlight the growing need for awareness of autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

The Center for Autism gives help and hope to children and families challenged by autism, ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Not only do they provide early identification and intervention, they also provide excellence in clinical care and a wide range of educational resources and research to increase the understanding of these disorders, and hope to one day eliminate them altogether.

Positive Musical Experiences

Positive Musical Experiences

As part of the Symphony’s Heartstrings Music and Wellness initiative, which aims to make classical music accessible to those who may not be able to attend traditional venues, the two organizations are working together to provide positive musical experiences for families affected by autism.

Expertise

Pacific Symphony violinist Marla Joy Weisshaar has a personal relationship with the Center for Autism. “I have two sons who are both on the autism spectrum,” she says.

“My younger son received his diagnosis by a developmental pediatrician from the Center for Autism, and we have a great respect for the people and everything they do for their families.”

Weisshaar has been able to offer her expertise as a musician and her personal understanding of autism to help design multi-sensory concerts where children on the spectrum can thrive.

Multiple Senses

“To engage multiple senses, we project images onto the wall that directly relate to the music being played,” says Weisshaar.

“For instance, we had a cartoon image of elephants dancing in tutus to accompany ‘The Elephant’ by Saint-Saëns, an image that was jokingly intended by the composer.

In contrast, ‘The Swan’ was a more serious piece, so we found a beautiful image of real swans. We also gave the children scarves to dance with, which gave them a kinesthetic experience.”

One-Of-A-Kind

One-Of-A-Kind

These one-of-a-kind concerts allow families close proximity to the musicians and give children plenty of room to play and respond to the music in their own way.

Dance With Joy

As seen during numerous concerts, many dance with joy when they hear the melodies of Mozart, the humor of Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals, the energy of the “Can-Can,” and of course, some of their favorite music from Disney movies.

“By creating a safe, welcoming and multisensory environment, we are able to share live musical concerts with the children and families at the Center for Autism in a format that works best for them,” says Mary Hawkes, the Symphony’s director of community engagement.

“Children are free to laugh, dance, play and learn in the open space, and our musicians perform a wide selection of music that the whole family can enjoy.

This season, we are introducing the entire orchestra by focusing on one instrument family at each of four concerts, including strings, percussion, brass and woodwinds.”

Love

“I love love love this program,” said one parent from the December concert. “It’s not only a unique and wonderful opportunity for my child, but I very much enjoy the whole experience myself.”

After the concert, kids are invited to the “Instrument Test Drive,” where they can play, touch and explore the instruments being highlighted on the concert, like the French horn or trumpet!

“The event was wonderful and very much appreciated by all in our family! The children loved the music and the opportunity to ‘test’ the instruments!” said one family. Another family reported that their daughter, Angie, talked about the instruments for days to her teachers and her peers.

An Honor

“It’s so wonderful that this available atmosphere is safe and nonjudgment—something that is much appreciated by our family who has two autistic kids. Our typically developing daughter loved it also.”

It’s an honor for the Symphony to be collaborating with the Center for Autism to help improve the lives of individuals and families affected by autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders through the power of music. For more information about our great partner, visit www.thecenter4autism.org.