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“Relaxed Performance” at the TSO for those on the spectrum, or anyone seeking a relaxed concert experience

“Relaxed Performance” at the TSO for those on the spectrum, or anyone seeking a relaxed concert experience featured image

Matthew Loden, TSO Chief Executive Office, photographed by Jag Gundu

April 9, 2019

When the TSO announced the “Relaxed Performance” concert (April 27, 11 am) for people on the autism spectrum or anyone looking for a more easy-going concert experience I was immediately intrigued and wanted to find out more. I’ve spent my life learning, practicing, and promoting music, and am eager to share anything that makes classical music more approachable. One of the best things I learned about is the Visual Guide that preps potential audience members – it is step-by-step, clearly laid out, and eases anyone’s anxieties about what to expect. I was a shy child, and would have LOVED a guide like this for the first few concerts I attended. A link for the guide is at the conclusion of this piece.

Here’s the Q+A with TSO Chief Executive Officer Matthew Loden.

I love the idea of Relaxed Performance. I understand it’s for a “neurodiverse audience”. Please tell us what that means.
These performances are designed specifically for people on the autism spectrum, neuro-atypical individuals with sensory and communication differences, atypical learners and their families or anyone who is looking for a more relaxed concert experience. In order to make everyone feel at home, patrons are welcome to move around, express themselves vocally, leave the concert hall, or take a break in the quiet room. They can relax, knowing that rows of seats at the back of the hall will be kept empty, should they wish to move away from the sound of the orchestra on stage.

This is great – quite frankly, I often want to move around myself with my aching back. Can anyone attend these audiences, or only those with a recognized disorder?
It is absolutely for everyone and anyone who prefers a more casual concert experience, children and grown-ups alike. We want to ensure that everyone gets to share in the magic of music as they wish to.

Yay! How did the Relaxed Performance come about? This concert sure is timely, given recent news about Provincial funding for kids with autism.
The TSO has a long-standing commitment to reaching diverse audiences through varied programming. We are aware that there is a large segment of our community that can be better served through our own efforts, and we are committed to making the TSO accessible for all.

Is this a pilot project? Any hopes of making this a series?
This initiative is part of our Education & Community Engagement programs. Our hope is to learn from this first experience: TSO staff, musicians, and front-of-house personnel will receive training from a consultant who specializes in programming for people living with ASD and other exceptionalities. The goal is to make the concert experience available to as many people as possible.

I’m going to take that as a “yes”, ha! And that’s fantastic about bringing in a consultant. How is the repertoire different in a concert like this, compared to standard children’s programming? (I imagine less extremes in dynamics was a factor.)
The repertoire is not much different than any other concert, really. However, we are adjusting the environment to create a relaxed, convivial atmosphere. In the spirit of inclusion, we want to give people who may have been unable to attend concerts in the past a chance to enjoy a concert in a low-stress environment, and reduce the anxiety that is sometimes attached to such an outing. For example, we provide a Visual Guide that details the concert experience, step by step, so that individuals know exactly what to expect from the moment they leave their home to the end of the concert. And we know that some people are particularly sensitive to noise and loud sounds. So in the program—which is presented as a fact sheet—indicates things like “About two minutes into the piece, a trumpet player will play really loud and high”.

I think a lot more people will appreciate these notes more than you expected. Let’s Dance! is aimed at families – any chance of relaxed programming for adults, with some of the “standard” repertoire the TSO is known for? Mozart, Brahms, Rachmaninoff?
We are listening to what our audiences want to see and experience at the TSO and we are committed to responding accordingly.


The Relaxed Performance of “Let’s Dance” takes place Saturday, April 27, 2019, at 11 am. The concert repeats at 2 pm, but it is a “regular” version of the concert (“non-Relaxed”), at Roy Thomson Hall.  The repertoire is varied and dance-inspired from classical to Bhangra, and features conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser and the Joy of Dance Centre.

For information/tickets and to see the amazing Visual Guide, please click here.

See you at the Symphony!


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