The Music Circle

Fostering Musical Engagement for the Special Needs Community

We’re here to meet the need for a truly accessible music education and performance program!

For some people with autism and other exceptionalities, bright lights, crowds, and surprise sounds can be daunting and make it impossible to enjoy music - especially at concerts.

The Music Circle Program launched in 2012 and was developed in consultation with team members from the National Arts Centre, experts in special music education from the Lotus Centre for Special Music Education, and with help from occupational therapists and behavioural therapists. 

We are pleased to share a free guidebook and accompanying videos demonstrating how people with autism and other exceptionalities can immerse themselves with family and care providers into a world of music through multi-model learning and sensory-friendly activities.

Register for a sensory-friendly music learning experience

The Music Circle program is a unique opportunity for people with special needs to explore orchestral instruments in a supportive and professional environment. The program helps participants develop their auditory, motor, social and motivational skills through hands-on workshops with a trained NAC Orchestral musician and a special needs music educator. 

The series is available throughout the school year, and consists of two or three interactive workshops, culminating in an event led by an NAC Orchestra ensemble or musicians from the community. When possible, students are able to touch, hold, and play featured instruments!

What to expect from our sessions

Our series of videos will give you a look at how The Music Circle Program works and what to expect from our sessions. You can also use these videos as a resource for hosting your own sessions in the future!

Discover what parents and teachers have to say about the program

“It was an amazing experience.  Thank you for the opportunity to come and enjoy without the stress that comes with trying new things. It was wonderful to be surrounded by other ASD families.

The NAC provided so many wonderful pre show opportunities to explore and trying out the instruments was a huge hit with us!…”

“I would never have thought that Cameron would sit through a performance at the NAC. It really never crossed my mind that he would be interested in the content. 

When I saw the opportunity to go as part of the Lotus Centre group I knew that we would have the freedom to move around a bit and even to leave if it was not working out. 

Not only did we not need to leave, he never even moved from his seat.  His attention was fixed on the performers and he was utterly drawn in to the show.  It was an incredible opportunity for our family to be able to enjoy the NAC together.”

“Our son was so captivated by the performance.  I knew he was at ease as he moved to the music and laughed at the story.  His favourite parts were when the conductor or musicians played a role in the show.  He couldn't stop talking about the Viking show for quite a while.

Thank you for the opportunity to experience the NAC orchestra in our special way.”

The Music Circle is made possible with the support from

Bring music into children’s lives

Your donations help the Music Circle reach more students, educators and communities across Canada. The National Youth and Education Trust is the NAC’s primary source of funding for initiatives that nurture and develop the creativity of children and youth, and support the educators and artists who challenge and encourage them.