Steamboat Springs If you have plans to catch Sunday’s Strings Music Festival concert with the rambunctious C Street Brass quintet, be prepared for a little different environment — one that welcomes fidgeting, exploring and even singing out loud.
Steamboat’s favorite music venue is hosting its first ever sensory-friendly concert, geared toward people on the autism spectrum, people with developmental disabilities and families whose children just like to move and groove.
If you go:
What: C Street Brass Sensory Concert
When: 4 p.m. Sunday, July 24
Where: Strings Music Pavilion, 600 Strings Road
Tickets:: $15 for adults; $3 for kids
“At most Strings concerts, there’s a strict expectation that people go to their seats and stay in their seats,” said Lisa Lorenz, executive director of the Yampa Valley Autism Program. “This concert will give them (concertgoers) more freedom. They can bring in their own snacks. Autistic people, young people (and anyone) will be able to move around, dance, flap or jump. There will also be a quiet space for people to get calm.”
Coincidentally, visiting music teacher Daniel Comstock is in town this week working with the very people Strings is catering to in this progressive concert — people with disabilities who are involved in the local Horizons program, autistic students and even the local Parkinson’s group.
“What’s special about this place (Steamboat Springs) is the engagement in this community. There’s a greater level of connection with the disabled than anywhere I’ve been,” said Comstock, director of the Center for Attitudinal Healing and the Arts, based out of Montana.
And Comstock should know. He uses his doctorate in music to connect with clients who have mental challenges who tend to respond immediately to the lure of rhythm. Comstock’s magic could be seen at Thursday’s vocal workshop at the Horizons day center where vocal students there enjoyed singing the songs they chose during their week of workshops.
Many of his Steamboat students will be at Sunday’s sensory concert, taking it all in, but its Katie Carroll, Strings’ director of artistic education who got the ball rolling last year.
Encouraged by her bosses, Carroll attended a Denver workshop on sensory-friendly entertainment.
“It struck a cord with my personal life and my love of the arts,” explained Carroll, who can be seen typing furiously on her computer one minute, then ambling through the Strings tent to check on the musicians the next minute.
“Growing up, I had a brother with a learning disability and a close family friend with Down syndrome,” Carroll said. “How could we not do this? Everyone deserves to have fun.”
Carroll soon began working within the local community to make a sensory concert happen here in Steamboat Springs. The C Street Brass quintet was an obvious choice, according to Carroll.
The five-man crew from Pittsburgh has been firing up Steamboat audiences for four years with their outgoing personalities and willingness to engage in playful banter. They jumped at the chance for a sensory concert, even connecting with the Pittsburgh orchestra, which recently held its own sensory concert.
“We had a lot of great insight from them,” said trombonist Gabriel Cody of the C Street Brass. “We’ll be playing shorter pieces … and a couple of pieces they’ll be able to sing along with.”
The Strings venue will also offer “fidget” toys like stress balls as well as headphones and earplugs for those with sensitivities.
For Horizons Executive Director Susan Mizen, the latest endeavor by the Strings Music Festival is just one of many reasons to love the organization.
“There are quite a few adults in the Horizon programs who so enjoy being able to listen to whatever kind of music Strings offers,” Mizen said. “This sensory concert is a first, so it’ll be interesting to see how different it is from the other music our people have enjoyed for years.”
With Sunday’s sensory concert, Carroll and others are hoping Steamboat becomes a shining light for such activity.
“The library is interested in a sensory-friendly story time … it would even be great for Wildhorse Theater to do a sensory-friendly movie time,” Carroll said.
This Sunday’s concert is at 4 p.m. at the Strings Music Pavilion, 900 Springs Road.