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Valparaiso University Music Therapy Program Launches Sensory Friendly Series

Program kicks off with concert on Feb. 22

Valparaiso University’s music department will be hosting the first of two “Sensory Friendly” concerts on Feb. 22, 2020, at 5 p.m. in the Chapel of the Resurrection. The program will feature the University Community and Luce Band, directed by Jeffrey Scott Doebler ’87 M.M., Ph.D., professor of music, and include musical favorites and audience sing-a-longs. The program is free of charge and open to audience members of all abilities, with special accommodations available for the disabled and neurodiverse community.

“We’re excited to include disabled and neurodiverse community members and give them a chance to be seen, heard and celebrated” said Sangeeta Swamy, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of the music therapy program. “It’s also a wonderful learning experience for our music therapy student volunteers.”

One male assisting another who is playing tromboneThe concert will include moderate lighting, more space between rows for wheelchair accessibility, a concert “map” to help audiences know what to expect, a sensory reduction room, sensory materials and an American Sign Language interpreter. Trained student volunteers will also be available to assist audience members, particularly if they need a break from visual, auditory or other stimuli. Audience members are requested to bring any materials they need to enjoy the concert. However, a limited number of items such as noise reduction headphones and weighted blankets will be available during the performance.

Sensory friendly concerts are becoming popular by major ensembles around the country, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and welcome movement, noise and participation.

The Valparaiso University Spring 2020 Sensory Friendly Series consists of two concerts and two musical instrument petting zoos. It was designed for the inauguration of the new bachelor of music therapy program, which was accredited in 2019, as well as to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The goal is to support and serve underprivileged members of the neurodiverse and disabled communities in Northwest Indiana who are typically not able to attend concerts for the general public.

“Not only is this a great opportunity for the children and adults with disabilities, it is a chance for the parents to enjoy themselves as well, since we can relax and not worry about our kids bothering people around them and without looks from others,” said Lynn Grantz, M.A., lecturer in English and assistant director of Valpo Core, as well as a longtime Valpo resident and parent of an autistic teenager.

The other events in the series will involve a musical instrument petting zoo on March 15 and Grammy Award winning duo Dan + Claudia Zanes on March 20, both in the Harre Union. Extended handicapped parking will be available for all concerts in the series.

The series is sponsored by Valparaiso University’s Institute for Leadership and Service, music department, music therapy program, Cultural Arts Committee and access and accommodations department, as well as the city of Valparaiso’s Human Rights Council.

Visit valpo.edu/music-therapy or email sangeeta.swamy@valpo.edu for more information.