Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Presents Sensory-Friendly Performance, ‘Heroes and Inspirations’

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Presents Sensory-Friendly Performance, ‘Heroes and Inspirations’

2016-01_PSO_HEROES-and-INSPIRATIONS_PromoArt_RGBThe Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will present its second sensory-friendly orchestra performance, “Heroes and Inspirations,” on Saturday, June 25 at 2:30 p.m. at Heinz Hall.

Led by Assistant Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong, “Heroes and Inspirations” is designed to provide a welcoming and inclusive concert environment, making it appropriate for families and patrons of all ages including those with autism spectrum disorders, sensory sensitivities and other disabilities. Monitors will provide open captioning throughout the concert and a quiet room, earplugs and fidgets will be available so audience members can regulate their sensory stimulation. The performance features musical selections that celebrate superheroes, astronauts, athletes, teachers and other extraordinary characters and individuals. Highlights will include a live drawing segment featuring visual artist Marcel Walker, onstage interviews with astronaut Jay Apt and lyricist Sara Pyszka, sing-alongs with vocalists Katy Williams and Ricky Manning, and a slideshow presentation of hero-inspired artwork submitted by patrons.

Pre-visit materials including videos and a Spotify playlist are available online to prepare for the trip to Heinz Hall. Pre-concert activities will begin at 1:15 p.m. on the day of the performance. During the activity hour, patrons can play instruments in a sound exploratorium facilitated by Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the Wesley Spectrum Services Creative Arts Program; explore movement in a kinesthetic room with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre; create artwork with The Andy Warhol Museum, Children’s Museum Pittsburgh and Creative Citizen Studios; and meet Pittsburgh Symphony musicians, as well as the symphony’s musical ambassador to children, Fiddlesticks!

Patrons will also have the opportunity to visit a resource fair and meet representatives from organizations offering accessible recreational programs in the Pittsburgh region. Organizations participating in the resource fair include Achilles International – Pittsburgh Chapter, Dynamic Paddlers, Find Some Flow, Horses with Hope, Miracle League of the South Hills, Open Up Pgh, Pittsburgh CLO Academy, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Steel City Icebergs and the UPMC Center for Musicians’ Hearing.

Tickets for “Heroes and Inspirations” are $15 and can be purchased by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412-392-4900 or visiting pittsburghsymphony.org/sensoryfriendly.

The Pittsburgh Symphony would like to recognize and thank The Jack Buncher Foundation and Pirates Charities for their generous support of this concert.

About the Artists

Lecce Chong, Francesco_webAmerican conductor FRANCESCO LECCE-CHONG has worked with orchestras around the world including engagements with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony and Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. With the start of the 2015-2016 season, he begins his new position as assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra after serving four years as associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO). He will return to the MSO throughout the season for several guest engagements and will make his opera debut with the Florentine Opera. He also will continue as associate conductor of the Grand Teton Music Festival.

Lecce-Chong has earned a growing reputation and critical acclaim for dynamic, forceful performances, garnering national distinction, including the Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award and The Presser Foundation Music Award. He has also been featured in master classes with Bernard Haitink, David Zinman, David Robertson and Christopher Seaman, while working with the St. Louis Symphony, National Arts Center Orchestra and the Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich.

As a trained pianist and composer, Lecce-Chong embraces innovative programming, champions the work of new composers and supports arts education. While working with the MSO, he curated and presented the works of both active and lesser-known composers, including two works commissioned by the orchestra, as well as two U.S. premieres. He also helped create the first MSO Composer Institute, providing performance opportunities for young American composers. Lecce-Chong has complemented his programming with a strong commitment to arts education for all ages. In Milwaukee, he provided artistic leadership for the MSO’s nationally lauded Arts in Community Education program — one of the largest arts integration programs in the country — and he continues to be a frequent guest speaker for arts organizations around the country.

Lecce-Chong is a native of Boulder, Colorado, where he began conducting at the age of 16. He is a graduate of the Mannes College of Music, where he received his Bachelor of Music degree with honors in piano and orchestral conducting. Lecce-Chong also holds a diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied as a Martin and Sarah Taylor Fellow with Otto-Werner Mueller. He has been mentored by many world-renowned conductors, including Edo de Waart and Donald Runnicles, with whom he continues to maintain a close working relationship.

Williams, Katy ShackletonKATY SHACKLETON WILLIAMS has performed extensively in the Pittsburgh area with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Opera, Mendelssohn Choir, Pittsburgh Opera Theater, River City Brass Band and Pittsburgh Concert Chorale. She was a featured soloist for several Pittsburgh Symphony Holiday Pops concert series and made her BNY Mellon Grand Classics debut in September 2005 with Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She was a soloist in the Heinz Hall performance of The Lord of the Rings and has been the special guest vocalist for many of the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Fiddlesticks and Tiny Tots children’s concerts.

Ricky_Manning_webRICKY MANNING, dubbed by the late Principal Pops Conductor Marvin Hamlisch as “The Singing Detective,” is a greater Pittsburgh native and a 17-year veteran of the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office who was promoted to sergeant in April 2013.  After a short audition with Hamlisch, he was originally brought to the Heinz Hall stage for the 2011 Highmark Holiday Pops performances, singing “Danny Boy” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”  He most recently performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony in “Salute to Veterans” during Neighborhood Week in 2015 and the Highmark Holiday Pops performances in 2013.

Manning also had the pleasure of several return performances as a guest vocalist with Pittsburgh’s own River City Brass, under the direction of Master Conductor James Gourlay.   Manning performed in a River City Brass special, Celtic Connections, and he performed at the Great American Brass Band Festival in Danville, Kentucky, singing “500 Miles,” “Country Roads,” “I Walk the Line” and “Rocky Top.”  He is a graduate of Central Catholic High School and holds a B.S. in law enforcement from Point Park University.

Manning was a member of the Carnegie Mellon University Pipes and Drums for 12 years and studied under the late world-renowned Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies.  Manning performs a wide variety of music from rock, folk, country and Celtic styles.  He is the lead singer in local band “Donnie Irish” and can be seen performing around town with local bass legend Justin Brown and drummer Bill Gendron.  They recently performed as the opening band at the 2013 Pittsburgh Irish Festival.

Marcel Walker_webMARCEL LAMONT (M.L.) WALKER works in Pittsburgh as a freelance illustrator, graphic designer, comic-book creator, writer and photographer. He taught comic-book creation classes and workshops at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts for several years. He continues to instruct at Pittsburgh’s ToonSeum, The Museum of Cartoon Art, where he has also contributed to their NORTH and OAKLAND anthology comic-books. His freelance projects include CHUTZ-POW! SUPERHEROES OF THE HOLOCAUST and COMIC-TANIUM! THE SUPER MATERIALS OF THE SUPERHEROES. In his independently published comic-book Hero Corp., International, his friends and associates have been re-imagined a world of corporate American superheroes.


Jay Apt_webJAY APT graduated from Harvard in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in physics. He completed his Ph.D. in experimental atomic physics at MIT and in 1976 joined the Center for Earth and Planetary Physics at Harvard, studying the weather on Venus. He later directed the observatory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, and worked in NASA’s mission control center in Houston.

Dr. Apt has spent more than 847 hours in space, on four Space Shuttle missions, and performed two space walks. He has been to the Russian space station Mir, and is the recipient of NASA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal. He is a pilot and aircraft owner with 5,000 hours of experience in more than 25 types of aircraft, sailplanes and human-powered aircraft. He has flown single-engine aircraft to Greenland, Iceland, Europe, Alaska and Central America. An award-winning photographer, Apt shares his images and knowledge of the Earth in Orbit: NASA Astronauts Photograph the Earth, published by the National Geographic Society in 1996, and in softcover in 2003. The book has been printed in 11 languages; more than 600,000 copies are in print.

After spending more than 35 days in space, Apt became the director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the six largest research museums in the world, where he led a turnaround of the museum’s research and public programs. A decade-long decline in attendance was reversed, with solid growth. Modern exhibits and first-class scientific research became the hallmarks of the museum. The museum was named “best museum in Pittsburgh” in 1999. After leaving the museum, he became managing director and chief technology officer at a venture capital firm.

Apt is now a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and in the CMU Department of Engineering and Public Policy. He is the co-director of the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center. He has authored more than 100 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals as well as two books and several book chapters. He has published op-ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Washington Post. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received the Metcalf Lifetime Achievement Award for significant contributions to engineering in 2002.

 Sara Pyszka_webSARA PYSZKA is an author and public speaker who has dedicated her life to raising awareness of cerebral palsy. Born without the ability to walk, talk or use her hands, she wishes to share her experiences and raise awareness through her writing. Pyszka graduated from Wright State University with a degree in rehabilitation services. She has attended Notes from the Heart music camp in Pennsylvania and written original songs with Lucas Richman, music director and conductor for the Bangor Symphony Orchestra. Pyszka also became the first person to sing using an augmentative communication device at two Major League Baseball games. Having written since she was a teenager, Pyszka published her first novel, Dancing Daisies, in 2013. Her next novel, Switch the Song, will be out in August 2016.

The PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, celebrating 120 years in 2016, is credited with a rich history of the world’s finest conductors and musicians, and a strong commitment to the Pittsburgh region and its citizens. Past music directors have included Fritz Reiner (1938-1948), William Steinberg (1952-1976), Andre Previn (1976-1984), Lorin Maazel (1984-1996) and Mariss Jansons (1995-2004).  This tradition of outstanding international music directors was furthered in fall 2008, when Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck became music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The orchestra has been at the forefront of championing new American works, and gave the first performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 “Jeremiah” in 1944 and John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine in 1986. The Pittsburgh Symphony has a long and illustrious history in the areas of recordings and radio concerts. As early as 1936, the Pittsburgh Symphony broadcast on the airwaves coast-to-coast and in the late 1970s it made the ground breaking PBS series “Previn and the Pittsburgh.” The orchestra has received increased national attention since 1982 through network radio broadcasts on Public Radio International, produced by Classical WQED-FM 89.3, made possible by the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. With a long and distinguished history of touring both domestically and overseas since 1900 — including international tours to Europe, the Far East and South America — the Pittsburgh Symphony continues to be critically acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest orchestras.

HEINZ HALL FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS is owned and operated by Pittsburgh Symphony, Inc., a non-profit organization, and is the year-round home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The cornerstone of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, Heinz Hall also hosts many other events that do not feature its world-renowned orchestra, including Broadway shows, comedians, speakers and much more. For a full calendar of upcoming non-symphony events at the hall, visit heinzhall.org.

Editors please note:
Saturday, June 25 at 2:30 p.m.

MARCEL WALKER, visual artist

Richard Wagner:

Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin

Lucas Richman:

One Single Voice
Ms. Williams

Leo Arnaud:

Olympic Fanfare (Bugler’s Dream)

Samuel Ward:

America the Beautiful
Mr. Manning

James Horner:

Music from Apollo 13

Antonin Dvořák :

“Songs My Mother Taught Me,” Opus 55, No. 4
Ms. Williams

Ludwig Van Beethoven:

Symphony No. 1 in C major, Opus 21
IV. Finale: Adagio – Allegro molto e vivace

John Williams:

March from Superman
Mr. Walker

Johann, Sr. Strauss:

Radetzky-March, Opus 228


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