DSO hosts special concert for North Texas kids with autism

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra's "sensory-friendly" concert Sunday was a product of Jaap Van Zweden and his connection to autism. Bradley Blackburn has the story.

DALLAS — It was the same baton, the same bold sounds, and the same celebrated conductor, but Sunday afternoon’s Dallas Symphony Orchestra performance was different and special because of who was listening in the audience.

The Meyerson was filled with North Texas families touched by autism. They came for a free, specially-designed concert where it was okay for autistic children to react, make noises, and even get up during the performance.  It was the first time the DSO has hosted a concert specifically for this audience.

“We’re just a little too loud, sometimes, to go to the movies and do things like this,” said Cary Scheurer, who was seated in the audience to next to her daughter Taylor, 12, who was diagnosed when she was just a baby.

During the concert, Taylor happily clapped along and listened to the music, while her mom wiped away a few happy tears.

“This has been something I’ve always wanted to share with her,” Scheurer said. “It’s just been a little overwhelming.”

The day was orchestrated by DSO Music Director Jaap van Zweden. He’s widely acclaimed for revolutionizing the DSO during his tenure, and he’ll soon take up the baton for the New York Philharmonic. But one of his other passions is his advocacy for autism, rooted in his own family’s experience. His son Benjamin was diagnosed years ago. 

“I strongly believe that every person has a soul, and we should also feed their souls,” van Zweden told News 8’s Ron Corning in a recent interview.

He recounted how music has been pivotal for his own son, who did not speak until he was 7 years old.  Today, he’s in his mid 20’s and speaks multiple languages, but it was a song that helped him utter a word for the first time.

“We were always singing songs for him, and he liked that.  And by accident, we forgot one little word in a song, and he got really excited about it,” van Zweden said.

He and his wife encouraged Benjamin to fill in the blank with the correct word.  It took took months of singing and practice, but it worked.

“He finally said his first word, and it was a part of that song,” he said.

Science has shown that music and music therapy can have great results for autistic kids.  Today in the concert hall, you could see and hear how the symphony’s performance resonated with kids and their parents.

Taylor Scheurer enjoyed it so much, she happily clapped and had a request.

“More!” she said.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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