OSJ Music for Autism

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
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.


MfA workshops introduce young people with autism to world-class classical music in an environment designed to make them feel comfortable. For many young people Music for Autism workshops provide a rare opportunity to experience live music, to meet musicians and see instruments being played. Music for Autism (MfA) delivers an innovative programme of 70 workshops per year for special educational needs schools throughout the UK. MfA workshops are held in school halls and other accessible, familiar spaces. Participants are encouraged to respond to the music through spontaneous dance and movement throughout performances.

Since the start of the charity we have played to 130,000 children and their parents,teachers or carers

New – Steve and Jo’s Music workshops online – Summer 2020

Click on this YouTube link to access the workshops.

Workshops:1 – Pitch with Steve
2 – Pitch with Jo
3 – Rhythm and Tempo with Steve
4 – Rhythm and Tempo with Jo
5 – Dynamics with Steve
6 – Dynamics with Jo
7 – Texture and Timbre with Steve
8 – Texture and Timbre with Jo
9 – A Trip Round the World with Steve
10 – A Trip Round the World with Jo

Note to teachers/parents/carers:
The workshops are between 30 and 35 minutes long and can be used as one off sessions or preferably worked through in order. They are aimed at students attending Special Schools, predominantly middle ability; however we hope that there will be something for everyone! We also hope that there will be ideas here that Special School staff can build and expand on in subsequent lessons at school.

New – Steve and Jo’s Early Years Music Workshops – Summer 2020

It would be great if you could bring along some percussion (or makeshift percussion) instruments to each workshop. Please also see other useful resources below:

  • In the Woods with Jo

Useful resources: This session will mostly be focused on animals and involves plenty of actions; so if you have any animal puppets, toys or instruments, do bring them along! Green material to represent frogs or trees could also be useful.

  • On the Farm with Steve

Useful resources: We are particularly looking at farm animal sounds, so it would be great to have a range of toy animals/pictures to refer to. Animals we’ll be referring to include – a duck, dog, cat, sheep, cow, hen, pig, hare, hedgehog and kestrel. We will also be doing a counting song, so it would great if you could make/draw animals we could count; specifically – 1 brown cow, 2 red hens, 3 pink pigs, 4 white sheep and 5 yellow chicks!

  • The Sea with Jo

Useful resources: It would be great to have some shakers/home-made shakers – aiming for anything that sounds like the sea! Sea coloured scarves/material of some kind would also be useful.

  • Tidying up the Beach with Steve

Useful resources: As The Sea with Jo, but we are tidying up, so a clean bin we can collect the rubbish in (and make some sounds with) would also be good; along with some clean rubbish to collect – like crisp packets, paper, bottles etc.

Note to teachers/parents/carers:

The workshops are between 15 and 20 minutes long. They are aimed at young children with a range of need and their parents/carers/teachers. We hope that there may be ideas here that can be expanded on afterwards!

Click on this youtube link to access the workshops.

The partnership between OSJ and Music for Autism benefits from a professional network of musicians established during John Lubbock’s career, the Artistic Director and Founder. John Lubbock OBE personally leads each workshop, alongside professional musicians. Music for Autism is uniquely positioned to offer access to renowned musicians to those who might not otherwise have the confidence to attend a traditional concert setting.

About OSJ Music for Autism

Conductor John Lubbock and mezzo soprano Christine Cairns established Music for Autism in 2002 to share their love of music with other individuals with autism and their families. The couple founded MfA in response to the transformational positive impact music has on their autistic son.

The National Autistic Society reports that there are approximately 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK. Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.

Since the MfA was established it has delivered over 500 workshops and touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people with autism with the joy of classical music. Families and schools report that workshops facilitate the development of communication skills, movement and emotional wellbeing in young participants. Professor Adam Ockelford’s publication ‘Music and Autism: Exceptional Strategies for Exceptional Minds’ (2013) reports that young people with autism often have an intense natural musicality.

The pioneering Music for Autism programme inspired the foundation of two international charities; Music for Autism USA and Music for Autism International.

We work within the guidelines of the UK Healthcare and Professionals Council. See their Ethics document standards-of-conduct-performance-and-ethics.

Press Archive

John Lubbock, OSJ artistic director and founder of OSJ Music for Autism, received an OBE in the 2015 for his services to the arts and for his charitable work.

Music For Autism comes to schools in the south

The world-class conductor and some of his musicians visit special schools to play for children with Autism to astonishing effect

BBC South Today on Tuesday, 16 May 2017


We would like to thank our funders for making the programme possible.

To ensure equal access for all, Music for Autism workshops are free of charge.

OSJ Music for Autism relies on raising over £70,000 annually from generous individuals, trusts and foundations to continue its charitable work.

Click here for links to further resources

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