Many central Illinois parents find that they have few options available for concerts that are welcoming to children with disabilities.

On Saturday, April 1, 2017 the Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra will present the annual Music for All concert, a free sensory-friendly event for children and adults of all ages. The performance will be held in the Center for the Performing Arts (CPA) Concert Hall at 2 p.m. An instrument petting zoo, designed to prepare sensory defensive children for the concert, precedes the concert beginning at 1 p.m.

During the pre-concert event, musicians from the orchestra will sit in the audience section of the CPA and play for each child. Children are allowed to put their hands on the instruments and feel the vibrations as they are being played. Instruments designed for children to interact with will be set up in the CPA lobby for children to play.

“All of the instruments are highly engaging to children and our music education students help to show the children how play each instrument,” states Kimberly McCord, professor of music education. “We bill ourselves as a sensory-friendly concert. This lets parents know that they can bring their children with autism, their children who are sound-sensitive, and that they can expect a concert that won’t have unexpected loud or high sounds. We leave the house lights up so children can move around. We have an American Sign Language interpreter signing the concert. The special education students help to identify children who need specific accommodations. For example, we typically have children with physical disabilities who may need help holding the instruments we give them. Our students make sure they get the opportunity to participate fully.”

This year the orchestra will have a special guest conductor named Kelsey, a child who is deaf. “Kelsey comes to our concert each year, stands up, and conducts the entire time,” said McCord. “This year she will join the conductor, Glenn Block on the podium!”

Each year, funding from grants such as the Harmon Arts Grant, allow for children to receive free instruments that they can play with the orchestra and then later take them home and continue to enjoy them. This year, a free tambourine will be given to children who attend.

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