John Lubbock and Christine Cairns, musicians and parents of a son with autism, established Music for Autism in the United Kingdom in 2002 to share their love of music with other individuals with autism and their families. Their journey began by organizing a series of fundraising concerts and producing Songs for Alexander, a music compact disc dedicated to their son, to fund their charitable organization. The CD features Scottish folk songs performed by British classical musicians such as Sir Simon Rattle, Sir James Galway, Dame Felicity Lott, Evelyn Glennie, Steven Isserlis and others.
John and Christine were determined to design Music for Autism interactive concerts specifically for individuals with autism and their families. The concerts are held in halls that appeal to people with autism; there is always open space for the audience to react to the music through spontaneous dance and movement. Featuring members of the Orchestra of St. John’s, founded and conducted by Maestro John Lubbock, the unique concerts expose individuals with autism to high quality classical music in an environment designed to make them feel comfortable.
In addition to funding concerts, Music for Autism has supported special units and schools for children with autism. The charity’s music education and equipment grants have furnished sensory rooms and provided school transportation and school supplies for children. Today Music for Autism has a well-established presence in the United Kingdom, holding numerous fundraising and interactive concerts each year throughout Great Britain.
In January 2007, Cherie Blair, wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair, honored Music for Autism at 10 Downing Street for its service to individuals with autism and their families.
Building on the charity’s momentum, in 2007, U.S. Founder and President Robert Accordino introduced Music for Autism to the United States. The organization gained 501c3 status in the U.S. in 2007, thanks to the pro bono efforts of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Washington, D.C. In the U.S., Music for Autism has a national presence with “autism friendly” interactive concerts at The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, 92nd Street Y, and McCarton School in Manhattan, New York; The Westview School in Houston, Texas; the Ivymount School in Washington, DC; the JCC of Staten Island in New York; the Brooklyn Heights Public Library in New York; and The Help Group in Los Angeles, California.
A number of Concert Artists Guild (CAG) musicians volunteer their talents for Music for Autism’s interactive concerts in the U.S. In 2011, with the commencement of programs in Boston, Music for Autism announced a partnership with the Boston Symphony Orchestra to serve individuals with autism and their families together. Through musically oriented fundraisers, beginning with a kick-off November 2007 fundraiser starring Tony Award winner Jarrod Emick, Music for Autism fully subsidizes all of its programming for those with autism and their families nationally.
For the first years of its founding, Music for Autism in the U.S. worked in collaboration with The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center to reach and treat underserved individuals with autism through screening and recruiting practices. The Center is the largest health center of its kind, providing free, comprehensive, integrated, interdisciplinary primary care to all children and teens, especially those who are uninsured in New York City. By holding its first United States concerts at the Center, Music for Autism aimed to encourage adolescents with autism to return to the Center for free medical and psychological care and social skills training.
In 2009, Music for Autism began a Spotlight Artist Program to recognize extraordinarily talented and gifted artists who have made a significant commitment to supporting the work of Music for Autism and aided in the charity’s expansion to additional U.S. cities. Pianist Jade Simmons was the first artist in the U.S. to receive this honor.
In 2011, Linda Rodgers Emory, who serves as Honorary Chair of our U.S. Board of Directors, made an extraordinarily generous gift through the Richard and Dorothy Rodgers Fund of the UJA-Federation totaling over $170,000 to endow a series of concerts in New York outside of Manhattan and to allow for the hiring of a national staff to support the ever growing activities of our organization.
In 2013, to serve a particularly marginalized group of those impacted by autism, Music for Autism commenced bilingual concerts in partnership with the Brooklyn Heights Public Library with concerts in English and Spanish.