Creating the conditions for joy

If you were to try to describe unbridled human joy to a newcomer on planet Earth, pointing directly at Kyle during Elizabeth Simpson’s Music Circle class would make an easy visual.

Kyle sits in the standard public high school chair, one leg tucked under another, and beams as Liz Simpson speaks calmly and quietly to the half-circle of students in the room. She’s there to offer her expertise as a professional orchestral musician with the NAC Orchestra; she’s a horn player, and she’s got the mouthpiece in her hand right now.

The NAC’s Music Circle Workshops for children, high school students and adults on the autistic spectrum are run in partnership with the Lotus Centre for Special Music Education and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and take place in schools and community organizations. NAC Orchestra Second Horn musician Elizabeth Simpson shares her passion for music by inviting students to play on musical instruments and explore the world of sound.  Each series of workshops culminates with a special interactive concert performed by an ensemble from the NAC Orchestra.

Back to the class now. Students have been buzzing their lips to make a motor sound, and now it’s time to apply the buzz to the mouthpiece to get a sound.

Kyle’s turn.

His face flushes red as Liz approaches his chair; he is so excited to try. When the air from his buzzing lips makes it into the small brass tube and a real “toot!” is sounded, Kyle sit-leaps! “Buzz lips! Buzz lips,” he repeats gleefully. 

Liz goes around the room again, this time with the brass mouthpiece locked into the gorgeous, gleaming French horn.

Kyle is almost too excited to buzz his lips, and must actively fight against his thrilled smile to make his mouth prepare for the note.

He gets an actual, clear note from the French horn! Hands clapping, he bounces up and down with a giant smile. His clapping is infectious and travels around the room. We are all beaming involuntarily for this absolutely unselfconscious show of joy.

“The students in the Autism Program at the Ottawa Technical Secondary School have the opportunity through their enthusiastic teachers to experience many wonderful things — classes and field trips to help them not only with their school work, but also with their lives in general,” says Liz. “I feel fortunate to have been able to introduce them to the brass instruments of the Orchestra. The students are looking forward to their special concert trip to hear The Rideau Lakes Brass Quintet perform in the Salon at the NAC. I’m so excited for them because musical experiences don't get much better than that!”

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