The Fort Wayne Philharmonic is pleased to announce that AWS Foundation has awarded $25,000 to the orchestra for its first ever sensory-friendly concert being held on April 19that the Purdue University Fort Wayne Rhinehart Music Center, in the Auer Music Hall.

“AWS Foundation is delighted to see one more element of Fort Wayne be more accessible. The Fort Wayne Philharmonic is such a treasure and they have designed an event with keen attention to the elements that will be more welcoming and sensory friendly,” said Patti Hays, CEO AWS Foundation.

“This is such fantastic news,” said Associate Conductor Caleb Young, who was instrumental in bringing this format to the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. “We are so excited about the possibilities this concert holds and how the Philharmonic will reach even more people through the power of great symphonic music. We’ve done a lot of research and are planning an amazing concert for this community.”

AWS Foundation’s mission is to help children and adults with enduring intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities live as independently as possible, be included in the community and function at their highest potential.

While the Philharmonic’s 40-minute sensory friendly program is designed specifically for children and adults with sensory issues and/or additional needs, the concert will be appropriate for all members of the family. The entire experience has been adapted so that children and adults of all abilities, along with their caregivers, may enjoy symphonic music in a safe and welcoming environment.

The whole experience (preparation, musical playtime, and performance) will be made sensory friendly. The program will be similar to other Family Concerts, with modifications. The aim is to create a safe and accepting environment where children and adults on the autism spectrum and their families and caregivers can experience a high-quality artistic performance. Lighting and any amplified sound will be mid-level, and the house lights will remain on. Musical Playtime may be more limited so as to reduce noise and activity levels. 

In addition, social experience stories and information about the Philharmonic Friends pre-concert activities and Instrument Petting Zoo will be made available for the performance to help audience members prepare for the outing, from start to finish.

Musicians, staff members, and volunteers will be trained before the performance and the Philharmonic will engage with local experts to learn how to serve these patrons so that everyone involved understands the needs of children, adults, and families with autism and related disabilities.

The Philharmonic wants to give audience members the experience of a typical performance but the venue will also have a quiet space where patrons may take a break from sensory stimuli. Sensory bags will be supplied containing fidget toys, earplugs and electronics for therapeutic use. Patrons are welcome to bring manipulatives, cushions, and extra support objects to the concert. Extra volunteers will be present to assist audience members. There are no assigned seats, so that patrons may select and visit their seats upon arrival.

The Fort Wayne Philharmonic thanks AWS Foundation for its support in making possible this first-ever concert of its type by the orchestra. Specific program information will be released at a later date.