How do you like to listen to live classical music?
Many people like to sit absolutely still and silent and dislike any distraction so that they can focus on the music. This is reasonable given the complexity and intensity of western classical music and the conventions of its presentation. But a significant number of other people, in particular young people with autism, prefer to move about, perhaps dancing or responding physically to the music, vocalising or whatever.
The problem is that these people are usually unwelcome at formal ‘concert hall’ performances and, as a result, their access to live classical music is limited – sometimes impossible.
But that is where the musicians of OSJ play a significant role. Small groups of members of the orchestra go into special schools, where many young people with autism are educated, and give short concerts to groups of students with the same quality of performance and professionalism as they produce for any other audience.
The difference important is that the students can respond to the music exactly as they wish. They can sit up, lie down, move around or stand and stare. They can fidget if they wish – and some children use fidgeting as a strategy to help them concentrate (not as an indication of their boredom as is often assumed).
The musicians perform regardless. Visits by OSJ musicians mean that these young people can have similar access to the experience of live classical music as those of their peers who can meet the behavioural expectations of formal concert attendance.
For young people with autism it is these socially constructed behavioural expectations that form the barrier – not the music itself. The OSJ musicians’ visits provide a significant model of the way that social justice can be furthered by a combination of professionalism, flexibility and imagination.
OSJ Music for Autism introduces young people with autism to professionally performed classical music, in an informal and accessible environment where individual differences are celebrated. Music for Autism has been delivering an annual programme of accessible workshops for over 15 years, specifically designed for those with autism. OSJ Music for Autism engages with over 6,000 young people each year.
Here is our OSJ Music for Autism Case for Support July 2020.