Last month, Pediatric Alliance held a ticket contest to see the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s sensory-friendly performance of “Music of Flight and Fantasy.” Writes the mother of one of our lucky winners:

We had so much FUN. I teared up a few times… reminiscing of my younger years. My son invited his 2 little cousins, and we all totally enjoyed it!

It was so enjoyable to listen to the wonderdul and talented musicians. It was amazing to see the look on Dante’s face when the conductor would orchestrate the musicians!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another young winner had a wonderful day out on the town with his parents. His mom describes their experience at the symphony:

When our son John was in third grade, he went on a field trip to Heinz Hall to enjoy the Symphony Orchestra. He loved it! I wanted to take him once again but the ticket price was really cost-prohibitive. I had researched various performances and the best seats seemed to go to season ticket holders. I was not into spending big money on rafter seats. I felt bad that such cultural enrichment was relatively unattainable for our family.

Then, there it was, a chance to win symphony tickets on the PediaBlog. I told my son, “Mom’s gonna try to win these tickets for us.” The offer came out one day and the winner was being picked the next. I had to be crafty and fast because you could only enter once a day. I entered immediately on the first day. Then, in order to submit a second entry, I entered again at 7:00am on day two. I figured it was a new day, and who would be picking a winner that early? People would be thinking coffee, not symphony tickets.

A week or so passed and I didn’t hear anything, but I never lost hope. Then notification came to my email. We won three tickets to the symphony. My son and I were all abuzz and giving high fives, and we called Dad with our good news. We were going to the symphony and couldn’t be any happier. We got our attire together, which meant purchasing new dress clothes for my son, who is like a Saint Bernard puppy with his growth spurts. We picked up our tickets and we were ready.

The big day came, and it was nearly ninety degrees outside. My husband and son breathed a collective sigh of relief when I said, “It’s way too hot for suit jackets and ties today.” The mandate was dress nice, but cool. I found a very light pant suit, and my guys decided upon polo shirts and dressy pants/shorts. I had hoped that we didn’t stick out like a sore thumb in that palace of opulence.

The Jazz Festival had taken over the entire cultural district and most of Penn Avenue was blocked off or restricted. After much maneuvering, we were able to get parking right next to Heinz Hall for an $8.00 flat day rate. We exited the parking garage and there it was, Heinz Hall. We were greeted by a doorman, who was dressed better than we were, and a Pittsburgh Police officer. Both were very friendly and greeted us with a smile.

Inside, we were greeted by volunteers, who were handing out soft baseballs with hands, arms, legs and feet. They were donated by the Pirates Charities. My son loved it immediately. I found that we were not alone, everyone was dressing for the weather and not to impress. There were polos, tees, shorts, basic sundresses and the like. No sore thumbs here!

We looked around and admired the rich architecture. There was an orchestra member playing the contrabassoon, which sounds like a series of snores, in the lobby. My son was less than impressed with the sound but showed interest in the very large instrument. Think woodwind that approaches the size of a string bass. There were four separate activity rooms available for the children and a quiet room for those needing to reduce stimulation. The Children’s Hospital Music Therapy Department also set up various instruments that the children could play. John spent a long time in this room and loved the drums. I bet Heinz Hall never heard drums played like that before or ever will again.

 

 

We approximated what door we needed to enter to get to our seats. This very sweet girl led us to our seats and refused my husbands offer of financial gratitude with a smile. Our seats were better than anything that I could have imagined. We were seated center floor, fourteen rows back from the stage. There was ample space between families, with many empty seats. My son marveled at the ornate ceiling and the orchestra members who were warming up on stage. Slowly each orchestra member took their seat and began to warm up. I mentioned to my husband that the members were not wearing their typical black and white suits, but, rather, colorful casual dress clothes. He surmised that it was because it was a children’s production.

The program began right on time with the conductor earning a rousing applause upon entering the stage. He encouraged everyone to relax, move around if you wish, clap along, direct the music from your seat or exit the auditorium if you need some quiet time. Lawrence Loh, our conductor and graduate from the Yale School of Music and other prestigious endeavors, had a firm understanding of children with sensory issues. The house lights were turned only halfway down, the stage was gently illuminated, and there were zero flashing lights. The program title was “Flight and Fantasy”. It featured popular music from The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, ET, Star Wars and Swan Lake. During each song, they provided something visual on stage, to retain the children’s attention. A person in costume, a singer, an artist drawing on an over-head projector, two ballet dancers, Elliot from ET riding a bicycle. My son sat quietly, totally caught up in the program. I caught my husband smiling at the stage several times. He too was clearly enjoying the program. The singer who sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was so powerful that it brought tears to my eyes. The orchestra played for roughly ninety minutes and was rewarded with an enthusiastic standing ovation at the conclusion. The auditorium cleared quickly but several musicians remained on stage to meet the children and provide photo opportunities.

We left Heinz Hall and decided to leave Pittsburgh immediately because it was very, very hot outside amongst all of that concrete. We got in our Jeep and blasted the air conditioning. John was very happy and said he liked the symphony. We decided to have dinner in Washington, PA, at the Long Horn, which is John’s favorite place to eat. It was a great day for our family. We are very appreciative to the doctors and staff at Pediatric Alliance for providing us with such an enriching experience. Thank you a million times over for making this mom’s dream come true.

 

 

We are so happy that Dante and John and their parents had such a wonderful time at the PSO’s very special performance! And we are grateful to the PSO (and also the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, which for years has produced sensory-friendly performances, including Peter Pan and the holiday classic, The Nutcracker) for having a production that everyone can enjoy, including so many of our deserving and appreciative patients. Pediatric Alliance is thrilled to be able to support these productions and we hope to continue holding ticket contests for them in the future!