An unforgettable performance experience

A student's perspective on the Sensory Friendly Spartan Concert.

Oboist and undergraduate in the College of Music, Katherine Lundy, performed at the first Sensory Friendly Spartan Concert in April 2018.
Graduate student and licensed music therapist Emily Roberts (left) organized the concert with Tasha Warren (right), assistant professor of chamber music at MSU.
Musicians performed in various places on and off the Fairchild Theatre stage in order to reduce the amount of time in between each piece of music.
Katherine Lundy (center) and her fellow student musicians performing at the first Sensory Friendly Spartan Concert in Fairchild Theatre.

Katherine Lundy is a music performance undergraduate majoring in oboe. The following are her reflections on a unique performance opportunity she had with the College of Music.

One of the great things about being a Spartan in the College of Music is the amazing opportunity we get to perform on different stages for different audiences. In an event coordinated by the Community Music School, I had the chance to perform for an audience of local students and adults who have special sensory needs. This was an amazing opportunity for my classmates and I to learn about sharing music with a different type of audience than we were used to.

This performance was unique and gave kids and teachers the chance to hear a concert specifically designed for them. It was a very rewarding experience, and afterwards some of the caregivers thanked us personally. They were so excited that the kids got a chance to not only listen to us but also get up and interact through dance.  It’s not very often that you get that kind of response from the audience at a chamber music concert, so we were excited as well.

I was asked to participate in this special event called the Sensory Friendly Spartan Concert as part of my chamber music class. In the class, taught by Dr. Tasha Warren, students assembled chamber music ensembles of two to six musicians and performed at various locations within the community during the semester. For the Sensory Friendly concert, each of these ensembles prepared music that they thought the audience would enjoy. I am an oboist, and my woodwind quintet chose a movement from a larger work that had a light texture and easy-to-recognize melody with the hopes that it would be easy to dance to.

The event was set up and run by Emily Roberts, an MSU graduate student and certified music therapist. She and Dr. Warren did an excellent job making sure the concert went smoothly. Emily, Dr. Warren and their colleagues from the Community Music School worked very well with the audience members by encouraging them to dance and play along to the music with smaller instruments that were distributed.

The concert was not set up in a traditional way. Instead of performing on the stage, each chamber ensemble was positioned somewhere around the stage. This was done to reduce the waiting time in between each performance. Initially I did not like having to stand on the floor directly in front of the stage, but I soon realized it was more helpful to the audience to be able to see us.

When a group wasn’t playing they would dance along, encouraging the audience members to join them. I remember two students who got up and tangoed down an aisle; it was silly and it made a lot of people laugh. You could tell that they were having a great time. Towards the end of the concert the atmosphere in the room was really great. I could tell that everyone was enjoying themselves, and some of the caregivers came up to us to say how happy their kids were.

In the future I think more concerts and events like this one should take place. Leaving the concert I felt like the work I had done really made an impact in the community. I think my colleagues felt the same. I hope that we and future MSU Music students get the chance to have more concert experiences like this, and I’m glad to know that planning for the next Sensory Friendly Spartan Concert is already underway.

The entire stage set up during the first Sensory Friendly Spartan Concert held at Fairchild Theatre in April 2018. The next sensory friendly concert planning is underway.

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