Sharing the Experience of Live Music with the Autism Community and Beyond
The Especially Everyone Ensemble returns to Garcia's on Sunday, February 9 to share the uplifting experience of live music with people on the autism spectrum and those with other special needs. We had the chance to interview Peter Kozak last year, who shared invaluable insights on the power of music and its healing effects on the soul, mind, and body. Here's why you should come out and join us for this inspiring show!
1. Research states that music therapy can increase self-confidence in adolescents with disabilities. How do you engage a diverse audience of people who are differently abled, while still providing the true, feel-good concert experience that we all know and love?
I think that the ‘feel good concert experience’ starts with the musicians’ ability to elicit joy from the members of the audience, and then the audience’s ability to give that joy back to the musicians. When you have musicians that are sincerely impassioned by the music that they play, and an audience that is receptive and responsive, then the concert will be engaging on all levels, and we will do whatever we can do to trigger that positive feedback loop.
2. Music is an effective way to communicate with and reach people with autism, as proven by the Autism Science Foundation. Music also might be the one thing that can reach someone with autism when nothing else will. Knowing these facts, are there any tips for other concertgoers who want to be more inclusive and help anyone on the spectrum have an equally enjoyable experience.
In general, if people could be more accepting and compassionate towards each other, we would all be of a lot more help to each other. The way to include someone is to accept them, and that is not specific to any disability. We are encouraging everyone at our events to reach out to each other and to open up so that someone can reach out to you. Say hi. Dance. Just be present, have a good time, and let everyone else see how much fun you are having. It’s contagious.
4. We read that music therapy touches all aspects of the mind and body. Music provides a much-needed distraction from the world, can slow the rhythms of the body, and it can positively alter our mood. In the creative process while planning your shows, what do you take into consideration to ensure activities that will address the needs of the audience?
We start by making efforts to address the sensory challenges that are common to Autism and special needs. The most obvious challenge at a live concert is the volume, so we make ear plugs and noise canceling headphones available to anyone that may need them, and also have a designated area to step away from the crowd if that is needed. We also try to address possible social challenges by having volunteers that are there to create a friendly and safe environment where people can relax.
5. A brain exposed to music may show greater cortical activation across key areas that are otherwise less active in someone with autism. How can music lovers of all abilities, spread awareness of the power of music in their everyday lives?
I think the only way to spread the power of music is to share music. Play it, talk about it, sing on the subway, make playlists, and support live music!
6. The Especially Everyone Ensemble utilizes the power of music and the energy of the community to personally connect with those with special needs and diverse abilities, as well as their families. How do you get the families involved and invested in the whole process?
Parents with children that have special needs rarely ever get to go to an event and enjoy it for themselves, so we try to create a friendly and safe environment with them in mind as well so that everyone feels safe and can relax and enjoy themselves. Many of our own family members were involved in the planning of this event, and many others will be at the show contributing in other ways. We emphasize this event as being “inclusive” because our intention is truly to allow for everyone to be involved in whatever way they would like to be.
7. Music has always been used as a tool to communicate artistic intent and inspire emotion. What makes The Especially Everyone Ensemble special in how it provides such a unique experience for those with disabilities?
I am blessed to have some of the most talented friends in the world, and even more than being talented, they are all really great people. Over the past year or two, I have really come to appreciate the energy that comes from this group, which has been cultivated over that span of time through that combination of talent and sincerity. When you concentrate that energy with a purpose in front of a crowd that receives it and gives the same energy back, you can really have something special.