Concerts in Glenbrook for people with special needs

Relaxed atmosphere: The audience spread out on cushions, listening to glorious music.
Relaxed atmosphere: The audience spread out on cushions, listening to glorious music.
Top performers: Cellist Elizabeth Neville, pianist Grace Kim and violinist Rebecca Chan.

Top performers: Cellist Elizabeth Neville, pianist Grace Kim and violinist Rebecca Chan.

A TRIO of world-class musicians performed to Mountains residents at Glenbrook in April at a series of concerts designed for people with sensory needs.

Happy team: Macquarie MP Susan Templeman with some of the performers and volunteers.

Happy team: Macquarie MP Susan Templeman with some of the performers and volunteers.

Children and adults lay on soft foam mats on the floor, sat on chairs, moved around the room or could retreat to a different room during the performances. 

The sensory concerts were designed by pianist and artistic director Grace Kim, who said people with sensory issues were often unable to see live performances due to being overwhelmed. 

Relaxed listening

Relaxed listening

Ms Kim consulted with occupational therapist Josey Sharpe and psychologist Jane Wearn, who created the calm and comfortable space at the Lower Mountains Anglican Parish, "so people could be in a calm state of mind where they’re ready to listen to music".  

They had received excellent feedback, including from parents who wouldn’t normally take their children to a classical concert for fear they would be disruptive.

Ms Kim said the idea of modifying the space meant “you are just a person, and it’s not a spotlight on your disability and you’re not identified by your challenges in your daily life. You’re just there as a person going to experience great music.” 

Ms Kim, with violinist Rebecca Chan and cellist Elizabeth Neville, performed classical music that was chosen to “engage, uplift and inspire”. 

“The standard of the concert itself you would find at the Opera House," Ms Kim said. "The standard is the same, but the space is different for people who can’t go somewhere else because it’s too crowded or noisy.”

“It wasn’t a concert for people with special needs. Everyone from the community could enjoy it because that’s essentially what a concert is: it can be enjoyed by everybody and not just the elite.” 

There were three performances to limit audience sizes.

“We wanted to minimise overcrowding, so everyone had their space and you wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by people next to you.”

Macquarie MP Susan Templeman was there.

“It was an inclusive environment, with beautiful violin, cello and piano performances. I would certainly love to see more of this happen in the Mountains,” she said.

The concerts were funded by the City of the Arts Trust cultural grant and the Great Walk Foundation.

Chairman of the City of the Arts advisory committee, Cr Don McGregor, said: "Our selection panel were delighted with Grace Kim's Sensory Concert project. Using live music in a sensitively designed environment to make it a little less challenging for children to enjoy and participate in community life made it a project that richly deserved our support."