GSO awarded NEA grant for Sensory Friendly concert series

Children with GSO members, once holding a violinAudience members at the GSO’s annual Sensory Friendly Concert are encouraged to respond to the music however they choose—moving around, dancing or vocalizing with the music. (Photo by Tom Kell Photorgraphy, provided courtesy of Georgia Symphony Orchestra)

Marietta-based Georgia Symphony Orchestra (GSO) has been chosen for a $10,000 Grants for Arts Projects award from the National Endowment for the Arts to support its annual Sensory Friendly concerts.

The GSO website describes Sensory Friendly concerts as follows:

The Georgia Symphony Orchestra is proud to present its annual Sensory Friendly Concert series. Beginning in 2015, these events are designed especially for persons with sensory sensitivities and their families. As a component of the GSO’s educational and outreach programs, these concerts give audience members the ability to fully experience orchestral music without any of the constraints of a standard performance.

During these 50 minute programs, audience members are free to move about, dance, speak, sing, or vocalize. Sensory sensitive listeners and family members will delight in the discovery of orchestral experiences that invite and welcomes all to the world of classical music.

This year’s Sensory Friendly concert will take place on April 15, 2023.. 

 “It is a tribute to the GSO’s board, staff and musicians to have received this grant from the NEA,” said GSO Executive Director Susan Stensland for the press release announcing the award. “We are excited to contribute to the arts and culture of our region in such a unique and positive way for members of an often-underserved community.”

The press release had the following information about the concerts, and about this year’s schedule:

The GSO’s Sensory Friendly Concerts are an integral part of its educational and outreach program. Featuring a vibrant selection of orchestral music to delight, enchant and stimulate the senses, these extraordinary performance series are designed to create a safe and welcoming experience for individuals with sensory sensitivities and their families.

Due to the positive response from previous years, the GSO has expanded the annual concert to a four-performance series. The first two Sensory Friendly concerts of the 2022-2023 season will be held on October 15, 2022.  Two additional concerts will be presented on April 15, 2023.  During these 50-minute programs, the orchestra relaxes house rules and encourages the audience to respond to the music however they choose; whether that be moving around the concert hall, dancing, or vocalizing along with the music.  A pre-program instrument “Petting Zoo”and a Quiet Zone also are provided.  

About the Georgia Symphony Orchestra

The Georgia Symphony Orchestra began in 1951 with the formation of the Marietta Music Club.

According to the GSO website:

The music room of Arthur F. Moor’s home on 383 Church Street in Marietta would establish the foundations for what would evolve over the next sixty-plus years. Talented local musicians would come together to create and share wonderful music with audiences. From 1955 until 1989, Betty Shipman Bennett conducted the orchestra through this long period of development. The music club grew to become the Marietta Community Symphony.

The orchestra was later renamed the Cobb Symphony as more professional musicians were added to the staff, and in 2011 it became the Georgia Symphony Orchestra.

The GSO states as its mission:

The mission of the Georgia Symphony Orchestra is to enrich our community through accessible, high quality musical and educational experiences that instill a lifelong appreciation for the arts.