Music is essential to feeling and being human – everybody needs music. It builds community and contributes to a sense of health and well-being. However, the way live music concerts are traditionally offered means they are not always accessible to everyone. Led by award-winning pianist Jennifer King and Certified Music Therapist Anna Plaskett, Department Head of the Maritime Conservatory's Music Therapy Program, this series of Sensory-Accessible (formerly Sensory-Friendly Concerts) classical music concerts is designed to make classical music accessible to everyone, including autistic, neurodivergent, and intellectually disabled community members of all ages and their families, as well as seniors with age-related changes in hearing and vision that can make loud noises and bright lights uncomfortable, or for anyone with underlying conditions that can affect their sensory processing and make traditional concert environments challenging. These concerts are designed to be inclusive, accommodating, and enjoyable for everyone in a welcoming and friendly environment. They are open to the public free of charge on select Sunday afternoons at the Halifax Central Library's Paul O'Regan Hall.
Noise-reduction headphones will be available for use, as well as an adjacent “quiet room” with sensory manipulatives for audience members who need a break from the concert environment. Lighting in the concert hall will be on at a low level. Those with hyposensitivity to sound are encouraged to come onto the stage floor during the performance, where the volume is louder. Audience members are also invited to move their bodies, and/or vocalize along with the music freely. Silent hand-clapping will be used to applaud the performers after each musical selection. Trained volunteers will assist in facilitating these interactions so that family members and caregivers can relax and enjoy the performances. Parents and caregivers are responsible for those whom they bring at all times, but we hope that parents/caregivers can sit back, relax, and enjoy the performance, as well as enjoy a social environment where their loved ones can enjoy being in an inclusive and sensory-friendly musical space.