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Cleveland Orchestra plans second sensory-friendly concert in February

A child tests out a drum
Scott Esterly
The Cleveland Orchestra
In addition to the sensory-friendly performance, there are activities before the concert where people of all ages can interact with musical instruments.

After positive response to hosting a concert in November for audience members with autism or who are sensory sensitive, the Cleveland Orchestra is planning a second event at Severance in February.

“A lot of the comments were consistent that this was one of the only times that families would have felt comfortable coming into our space or coming into any art space where normally children are told no,” said Courtney Nurre, director of learning programs for the orchestra.

Making people feel comfortable includes setting up quiet spaces away from the music, allowing talking and moving around during the performance and providing noise-reducing headphones and fidget spinners.

A young child moves around near the stage during an orchestra concert
Scott Esterly
The Cleveland Orchestra
Moving around the concert hall is allowed during the sensory-friendly performance set for Feb. 24.

The format for the sensory-friendly concerts was arranged with the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, and the orchestra intends to continue offering these opportunities.

“We hope to just keep building and continuing to learn,” Nurre said. “Truly listening to what our constituents, what our guests and our families, are advising on is really what will make these concerts even better each time.”

The next sensory-friendly concert is Feb. 24 at 11 a.m., and the one-hour performance features “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” by Benjamin Britten and selections from “Carmen” by Georges Bizet. Daniel Reith, assistant conductor, will lead the orchestra, and Daniel Singer, assistant director of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, will narrate the program.

Before the Saturday morning performance, guests of all ages can also get acquainted with different musical instruments or participate in music therapy provided by In Harmony Therapeutic Services beginning at 10 a.m.

The hands-on experiences with instruments were particularly popular at the first concert, Nurre said.

Around 700 people attended that event, and the orchestra could host 1,000 people at the next one while still reducing capacity in the concert hall to provide extra space for guests, she said.

“Already we're talking for next year,” Nurre said. “We're not able to announce dates yet, but there will be at least two sensory-friendly concerts again next season.”

Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.