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Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra presents first sensory-friendly performance

Maeve McAllister
June24/ 2015

A family outing to the symphony can be an intimidating prospect for caregivers of children with autism spectrum or sensory processing disorders. But this weekend, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) presents its first sensory-friendly show, Celebrate Pittsburgh, designed specifically with these families in mind.

“We want everybody to be able to enjoy the music of the Pittsburgh Symphony,” says Jessica Ryan, manager of education and community programs at the PSO. “We also want our visitors to feel comfortable expressing themselves through the music in any way they wish.”

Led by Resident Conductor Lawrence Loh, Celebrate Pittsburgh will honor our city’s legacy through musical pieces like the Mister Rogers MedleySingin’ in the Rain and The Pink Panther, composed by Aliquippa native, Henry Mancini. Local special guests will also grace the stage, including cartoonist Joe Wos, violinist Inori Sakai and the Pittsburgh CLO Academy Tap Dancers.

Though this one-hour show is open to people of all abilities, special accommodations have been made for individuals with sensory processing disorders. Fidgets and earplugs will be provided upon arrival. Monitors with captioning, as well as quiet rooms, will also be available throughout the performance.

Ticketed guests are encouraged to arrive early for special pre-performance activities like playing instruments in a sound exploratorium and experimenting with movement in a kinesthetic room. There will also be a resource fair in the Grand Lobby with over 30 service and arts organizations from around the region.

With the recent sensory-friendly productions of The Lion King by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and The Nutcracker by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Celebrate Pittsburgh is part of a growing citywide commitment to bringing the performing arts to individuals with disabilities. “These other shows had so much positive feedback,” says Ryan. “In some cases, it was the first time that families were able to come to a community cultural event all together. We are really hoping the same thing for our patrons.”

Celebrate Pittsburgh will be held on Saturday, June 27 at 2:30 p.m. at Heinz Hall with pre-performance activities beginning at 1:15 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase online, at the Heinz Hall box office or at 412-392-4900. In advance, attendees can visit here to find logistical tips, pictures of the instruments to be played, a Spotify playlist of the event’s music, biographies of composers and a lexicon of musical terms.

Featured photo: Celebrate Pittsburgh by the PSO, Photo courtesy of the PSO

Maeve McAllister

Maeve has just completed her freshman year at Wellesley College, where she plans to major in Economics. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, and a lifelong resident of Shadyside, she is a graduate of The Ellis School. Maeve is happy to be back in Pittsburgh for the summer and, when away at college, she remains passionate about Pittsburgh and her Pug Dog, Perry.