The Virginia Symphony Orchestra presented its first sensory-friendly concert in November, designed for audience members on the autism spectrum. The hour-long program featured selections by Mozart, Debussy, Mendelssohn, Copland, and Beethoven among others. Audience members arrived early for pre-concert activities and a resource fair.
VSO musicians are members of Local 125 (Norfolk, VA). In preparation for the concert, all musicians and staff underwent training on how to recognize patrons with sensory needs and how to handle sensory-overload situations. Quiet spaces were available before and during the concert, seating in the hall was flexible, and sensory tools—such as fidgets—were available for use during the performance. VSO posted a pre-concert guide of what to expect at the performance on its website.
VSO partnered with local autism centers and other service organizations in the community, and the sensory-friendly concert was supported in part by a grant from the American Orchestras’ Future Fund.