Concerts in Glenbrook for people with special needs

Spread out on cushions, listening to glorious music.

Spread out on cushions, listening to glorious music.

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

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

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

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. 

Relaxed listening

Relaxed listening

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

“The idea was to remove as many obstacles as possible so the children were receptive and could equally enjoy the music.”

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

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

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 from patrons. One attendant said they wouldn’t normally take their children to a classical concert for fear they would be disruptive, but they were completely transfixed by the music.

Another person said: “It was fantastic having the crash mats all around, and a relaxing non-judgemental atmosphere where our kids could just be themselves and enjoy it in their own way.”

“When you go to a concert you are just yourself," said Ms Kim. "The idea of modifying a space is that when you go 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.” 

Ms Kim said they put on 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.”

The concerts were funded by the Blue Mountains city of the arts trust cultural grant and the Great Walk Foundation.

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