|Wiggle, giggle and sing — it’s all OK at the ‘Comfy Concert’|
|Written by Deborah Stone|
Marie Juchau’s daughter Grace, 13, is autistic.
The local girl is also nonverbal and functions, according to Juchau, on the level of a 3-year-old child.
Grace loves music and over the years she attended numerous performances of her siblings, who were in the Bothell High music program.
She would go with her family, but mid-way through the program, they would usually have to leave the auditorium.
“Sometimes we would have to go as soon as it started,” explains Juchau, “because Grace would sing and make noises, which was very disruptive for the audience. It’s not that Grace was bored or unengaged in the performance; it’s just that she wanted to sing, even between numbers when there wasn’t any music.”
Juchau adds, “We could tell that she was frustrated and sad that she could not stay for the concerts. I really wanted her to have the opportunity to be able to attend musical performances and not feel as if we had to leave because of her behavior.”
Knowing that there were other families who were in the same situation, the local woman began to brainstorm a solution to this problem.
“I started talking with Sheri Erickson, the vocal instructor at Bothell High, about the possibility of having her students do a concert for these kids,” says Juchau.
“Sheri thought the idea was great, as she saw it as a good opportunity for her students to perform their solo and ensemble music — almost like a dress rehearsal session for them.”
Juchau adds, “Working together, alongside Paula Quigg, a mom of a special needs daughter and a member of Northshore’s SEPAC (Special Education Parent/Professional Advisory Council), we organized the Comfy Concert and opened it up to include all special needs individuals and families with young children.”
Last year was the first year for the event and according to Juchau, it was highly successful.
About half of the 75 people who attended were parents with very young kids; the other half was comprised of special needs children, teens and adults.
“It was truly wonderful,” comments Juchau. “There was a lot of laughing, singing and giggling among the audience members. I saw kids rocking and moving their bodies to the music and there were even some who yelled during the performance. Everyone had a great time and no one had to leave.”
Though the concert was free to the public, most attendees were happy to give a $5 suggested donation.
The money, about $100 total, went back to BHS’s scholarship program for music students.
Juchau viewed the event as a win-win, as she notes that both student performers and audience benefitted.
This year’s Comfy Concert, which is co-sponsored by SEPAC and BHS Music Department, is once again free for children and adults, with or without special needs, and their friends and families.
Approximately 50 BHS students from the school’s choirs, band and orchestra will be participating in the one-hour performance.
The music, according to Sheri Erickson, will be mostly classical.
There will also be songs set to poetry, as well as a sea shanty entitled, “The Capital Ship,” sung by a group of young men.
“The students are really looking forward to this opportunity,” she comments. “They understand that the audience may respond to their songs in a different way than their other concerts. However, they realize this is very meaningful to this audience, as well as their parents.”
She adds, “The music students have a unique opportunity to lift the spirits and bring joy to others through their music. It is very rewarding to know that our music has touched another person in a very special way. It is always beneficial when we have an opportunity to share our talents and efforts with others.”