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[joongang Ilbo] Another Miracle at Pyeongchang, … 60 Orchestra Members with Developmental Disab

Date : 2013-03-07 Hit : 1,247

One and only in the world…. The Heart to Heart Orchestra
Playing the William Tell Overture under the direction of the conductor
Audience astonished… “cannot believe it”
▲ The Heart to Heart orchestra, which is made up of 60 children with developmental disabilities, is performing for the Winter Special Olympics at the Pyeongchang Alphensia Concerthall on the 29th.
The orchestra’s performance for the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony started at 5:20 p.m. on the 29th at the Alphensia Concerthall in Pyeongchang-kun Gangwondo Province. About 50 members, wearing matching black uniforms, were holding their instruments in their hands. Their appearance was the same as any other orchestra. But somehow, there was a difference. After calmly tuning their instruments, they looked around the audience instead of looking at the conductor. Their eyes looked worried. But once the conductor’s baton went high up in the air, they started playing the William Tell Overture, as if they had never been worried in the first place. The exciting and happy atmosphere was shared immediately by the audience. Exclamations from the audience could be heard. Some were whispering, “Are they really children who have developmental disabilities?”.

This is the Heart to Heart Orchestra which is made up of 60 children who have developmental disabilities(autism). Chairman Timothy P. Shriver of Special Olympics International who watched the performance repeated “This is surprising!” He is the son of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver(sister to President John F. Kennedy) who founded the Special Olympics in the first place. Chairman Shriver must have met many people who have gone through hardships, but he still seemed to be very surprised this day. “I can’t believe it even after seeing it with my own eyes. A symphony orchestra only made up of children who have developmental disabilities… It was a great scene, a performance of the impossible.”

As is well-known, autism is a form of intellectual disability lacking in sociality. People with autism also lack concentration to stay in one place. Especially, since these people don’t have any interest in others and lack the ability to communicate, it is almost impossible to create harmony with others. Judged by general expectations, it is virtually impossible for these children to create harmony under the conductor’s direction.

That is why people tried to discourage Chairman Shin In-Sook of the Heart to Heart Foundation from creating the Heart to Heart Orchestra back in 2006, with 8 children who had developmental disabilities. But she did not give up making these children, who could barely play the recorder, practice to play the flute and the trumpet. Most people had thought that “it was crazy to even try something impossible.”

In the early days, there were actually more moments of frustration than that of hope. Trombone Player Park Seong-Ho of the Gangnam Symphony Orchestra was invited as the permanent director, and around 10 professional musicians were seated among the orchestra members. However, this was not enough to even carry on practice. At first it would take longer to calm the children down than to actually play the music. In November of the same year, believing that the orchestra was ready to perform, the orchestra went up on stage. The result was more than disappointing. Perhaps because of the unfamiliar surroundings, some players would walk around the stage making ‘Ah, ah’ sounds. There were even players that ran off the stage. Since children with developmental disabilities are usually sensitive to their surroundings, it was necessary to practice in the exact same room. Considering this, it must have been too overwhelming for the children to face the tension of being on stage and being in an entirely unfamiliar environment.

January 2013. Now 7 years have passed since the disastrous first performance. The world’s only orchestra of members with developmental disabilities, the Heart to Heart Orchestra, made what seemed impossible into a reality. A team of members with developmental disabilities has performed at the opening of the Special Olympics for athletes with intellectual disabilities. Ms. Lee Ji-Young, the head of a laboratory of the foundation explains that “it normally takes 2 years even for children who used to play an instrument to be ready to perform in an orchestra, and takes an extra year for them to really be ready to perform on stage,” and that “this is the result of practice after practice, 4 to 5 hours a day, 4 times a week, repeating the songs over at least 1000 times.”

This year’s Special Olympics has opened on the 29th and ends on the 5th of next month. More than 3300 athletes from 110 countries will play in 7 official games including the alpine ski and cross country, and 1 demonstration game(floorball).

The Special Olympics is an amateur sports festival for 2 million 25 thousand people with intellectual disabilities worldwide. Ms. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister to US President John. F. Kennedy, held a 1 day camp for athletes with intellectual disabilities in 1963, which became the origin of the games. Valuing the spirit of challenge and effort rather than the result, the players in the first, second, and third place are awarded medals, and the rest of the players are awarded ribbons.

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