TSO launches relaxed performances for audience with neurodiverse needs

Families who have never felt comfortable in attending a concert performance now have something to really look forward to. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) announced a very special series of relaxed performances to be added to the programming at Roy Thomson Hall.

Relaxed Performances are designed specifically for people living with autism spectrum disorders, sensory and communication disorders, learning disabilities, or anyone who wants a more casual concert experience.

TSO Assistant Principal Cellist Winona Zelenka knows how important this opportunity to experience the arts is to families with members living on the autism spectrum. She tells us, “as a parent of a young lady who is on the autism spectrum, no longer a child but with much the same issues with loud noises and concert protocol as she had when she was younger, the thing that makes me happiest about the Relaxed Performance idea is the fact that it reduces the stress for autistic people and their families to a level that makes it possible for them to enjoy the great music that I’ve known and loved my whole life. It means that my daughter and others who are not neurotypical will be accepted and welcomed into a world of live music that has been largely closed to them, and it is a fantastic world that I feel most people are fascinated by.”

First up, Let’s Dance, an interactive concert that will make audience members want to groove in their seats while watching dancers perform live. There will be one performance designated as a relaxed performance on April 27. The program includes classics to modern day music from Tchaikovsky’s Waltz from Swan Lake Suite to Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk.

“Concert experiences like this help families like ours by making our children feel welcome, which is immeasurable, and by letting parents and siblings enjoy the music too because they know their family member is included and happy- so that it can be a great shared family experience,” said Zelenka.

Specialized training will be provided to musicians, TSO staff, and the personnel by Relaxed Performance Consultant, Rachel Marks.

Relaxed performances with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra differ from other concerts in several ways:

  • Patrons are able to move around and express themselves.
  • Audience members will have advance access to a visual guide that details the concert experience, step by step, in order to reduce anxiety, as well as a fact sheet with the detailed information about the performance itself.
  • Rows of seats at the back of the hall will be kept empty should guests wish to move away further  from the stage.
  • Patrons will have access to a quiet room with comfortable seating, stress relieving fidgets, and relaxing activities.
  • The TSO will also provide other resources such as sound-dampening headphones.

For more information visit www.tso.ca



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