Performing Arts Center Hosts Adapted Music Rehearsal for 9 Local Middle Schools

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The hum of an accordion pierced the silence, followed by a collective roar of applause and laughter. Suddenly, the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi filled with the sounds of traditional folk music. For an hour, the performance entranced the audience who cheered after every song. As the quartet finished, the lights brightened illuminating the radiant faces that marveled at the stage; it was a moment of pure joy.

Now imagine experiencing this performance with a condition that makes ordinary sounds uncomfortably overwhelming – that’s what it like to live with Sensory Processing Disorders. In an effort to be all-inclusive, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi collaborated with surrounding local special education classes, to arrange an adapted rehearsal by Russian Renaissance for students affected by Sensory Processing Disorder and other conditions like Cerebral Palsy and Autism on Oct. 10.

“Including the community in our events is important because it means more people can see what we have to offer and truly engage in the artistic narrative,” said Jim Moore, director of the PAC. “The fact that the Russian Renaissance performers were willing to take the time to be inclusive highlights the quality of performances that we want to continue hosting.”

Russian Renaissance kicked-off the annual Furgason Bravo! Series, a multi-event showcase. As part of their show, they offer open rehearsals for students with special needs. When Moore heard of this, he immediately jumped at the chance to involve the local community. He teamed up with Dr. Debra Stanley, program coordinator for transitional and institutional support within Corpus Christi’s Independent School District (CCISD) Special Education department and together they worked on logistics. The team even enlisted Islander students to serve as ushers to ensure visiting students had the opportunity to indulge in a cultural experience at the Island University.  

“This was an amazing opportunity to give these students the chance to experience something they would not have otherwise,” said Stanley “We look forward to cultivating a long-standing relationship with the university, so we can continue to impact our students.”

In preparation for the event, Kimberly Cook, an adjunct professor within the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi created a “Social Story” PowerPoint to help students feel comfortable in the PAC. The presentation included pictures of the facility including restrooms and seats, the performers and instruments, and was tailored to each school’s student needs. Cook, who facilitated the collaboration between Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and CCISD, noted the significance of reframing the inclusion of students with disabilities. She also commended both parties for its partnership and the innovative approach to community outreach.

“The purpose of the presentation was to help kids learn appropriate behaviors during the performance and know what to expect for the duration of their visit,” said Cook. “Children with varying needs benefit tremendously from events like this because it’s a chance to do something fun with their classmates.”

Russian Renaissance’s main performance took place later that evening and featured a collaboration Islander sculpting students. For a full schedule of the Furgason Bravo! Series and tickets, visit the Performing Arts Center.