Civic Orchestra of Jacksonville performing more accessible concert for those with special needs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A group of musicians in Jacksonville is putting on a performance Sunday night to make concerts more accessible for people who might get overwhelmed by the typical experience.

The Civic Orchestra of Jacksonville is performing a show that caters to people with some sensitivities and special needs. It is the first time the group is doing a concert of this nature.

It will be on the campus of the North Florida School of Special Education on Mill Creek Road.

The show will not be in a typical concert hall. It will be in an open space at the school’s barn, which is where its Equestrian Center is.

Marguerite Richardson, who is the orchestra’s conductor, said the concert embraces a lot of crowd participation, including singing, laughing and clapping.

“This is a concert, where if a student wants to laugh, or sing, or act out, or clap along, they are actually encouraged,” Richardson said. “They are not told not to do it.”

It will be a safe space for those with sensory sensitivities and special needs to comfortably enjoy the sights and sounds of orchestra music.

Richardson said someone close to the group inspired this.

“It was really the idea of our orchestra president,” she said. “Our graphic artist who does our programs has a daughter who had difficulty coming to concerts. This idea was kind of born from a need.”

Some elements involved in this concert include it being outside, there will be a lot of movement from performers for crowd interaction, items like bubbles and ribbons will be involved.

There will also be safe spaces if the music still becomes overwhelming. Those spaces will also include noise-canceling headphones.

“[We are] thinking of all communities, all groups that might not typically get to, or feel comfortable attending a concert hall,” Richardson said. “This is a way for them to hear the music, get involved and see music performed by an orchestra as relevant.”

Richardson wants everyone to feel welcome.

“Our mission is music for everyone, and we really want that to mean everyone,” she said.

The concert will be about an hour long on Sunday.

People can expect to hear some classical tunes as well as new music written by a local composer.

The free concert starts at 5 p.m.

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