Together in Music

It has been part of the GVO’s mission to reach out to our community, so we have been delighted to be involved with Together in Music, a program of orchestral concerts for children with special needs started by Barbara Yahr, our music director and a music therapist.

Program Concept

Children have long been engaged by the magical sound of the symphony orchestra. As music therapists, we know what music can do to engage a child with special needs. This concert combines the traditional young people’s concert with the model of a group music therapy session to create a unique and engaging concert experience for the special needs population and their families.

With this program, we endeavor to do more than just provide a safe environment for children. We bring musical experiences which are interactive and improvisational, experiences which will make possible the kind of human connections which can take place both in a music therapy session and in the concert hall.


How Together in Music Began

Barbara Yahr,

I discovered the field of music therapy after 25 years as a professional orchestra conductor. This might be surprising to some people but I believe that the two fields have much more in common than one might think. After all, one of the most important goals for both conductors and music therapists is to bring people together in a shared musical experience.

Before I began my graduate work in music therapy, I had decided that I wanted to design an orchestral concert specifically for children with special needs. For some children, music is the only modality in which they can connect with other people and yet their parents feel unable to bring their children to concerts for fear of how they might react to the environment. I wanted to create an event where all families can enjoy the sense of community that an orchestral concert can evoke.

Project Design

8 to 12 weeks prior to the concert local music therapists select several clients to work with as part of their weekly sessions, to prepare for their roles in Together in Music.

During that time period, Barbara Yahr joins the music therapist and clients in several sessions, creating a therapeutic relationship as as she helps them practice their parts with the conductor.

On the day of the concert, clients come in for the second and final rehearsal to give them a chance to play their parts with the orchestra. Clients who have been identified as improvisers also come in to practice playing with the orchestra.

At the concert, clients join the orchestra on stage to perform. Selected clients will improvise on the metalaphone, while others may join in with singing and movement activities.

What parents are saying about a performance of Together in Music

We are still so elated over the wonderful concert on Sunday. What a thrill it was to see Taylor perform with a live orchestra and to do it so well.

How many people can say that they have played with a professional orchestra? And how many have been allowed to participate with such gusto? It was really wonderful, and as my friend said who came, “It was just magical!”

The interplay with the audience and the loving embrace of the orchestra for these students and their fans was remarkable.

Barbara Yahr’s love for all kinds of people and her desire to bring music to all of our hearts via this compassionate and professional setting was daring, loving and magnificent.

We are still so grateful for the gift given to each of us by each of these musicians in the orchestra.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
We are grateful for your vision and for your hard work.