For over 20 years, under the committed leadership of John Lubbock, Music for Autism has been delivering an annual programme of accessible workshops, delivered in special schools and specifically designed for young people with autism. OSJ Music for Autism engages with over 6,000 young people each year.
These day-long sessions are entirely free of charge to participating schools.
How do you like to listen to live classical music?
Many people like to sit absolutely still and silent, without any distractions, 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 John Lubbock and 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 important difference 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). Nothing is forced; yet, with John Lubbock gently facilitating and encouraging throughout, the interaction between the children, the music and the musicians is very often a deeply moving experience.
Visits by OSJ musicians mean that young people with autism 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.
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Here is our OSJ Music for Autism Case for Support July 2020.