Saul Markowitz, Markowitz Communications, 412-977-8517,
Cally Vennare, Interim Director of Communications, Pittsburgh Symphony, 412-600-5055,



Sensory Friendly Holiday Pops, a Concert About Using Music to Make a Stand, and Oleta Adams & the Lift Every Voice Unity Choir

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 6, 2023—The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) is widely acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest orchestras (seriously, look us up). But one thing people don’t know about the PSO is that they’re also always listening.

Right now, the PSO is stepping up its learning and public engagement activities like never before. Whenever there’s a chance to meet a need in the community, shine a light on the things that are important to them, or find new ways to connect with Pittsburgh, the PSO listens and responds with musical programs.

Here are three upcoming examples of very different learning and community engagement concerts. Photos and/or interviews are available on request.

In 2015 the PSO heard, loud and clear, the need for concerts that were structured a bit different than the usual hushed silence in a concert hall. So, they created sensory friendly concerts. The upcoming “Sensory Friendly Concert: Holiday Pops” on Dec. 16 is truly something that can bring families of varying sensitivities together for the season.

“It's often one of the few times that families who have a member with a disability can go out together to something and not feel judged — to feel welcome and to not have people stare when their family member responds in whatever way that they respond,” says Katie Schouten, Director of Learning & Community Engagement for the PSO.

As many things are in life, it’s personal for some PSO employees. One PSO musician has a son with an autism diagnosis and their family has volunteered to help welcome guests to sensory friendly programs in the past.

The Dec. 16th concert celebrates the season of winter, featuring Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” Christmas carols like “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” dancers from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, members of the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus, and guest soloists. For an hour before the 2:30 p.m. concert, there are activities like an art room (to create greeting cards), a Sound Exploration Room (with the Creative & Expressive Arts Therapy team from UPMC Children’s Hospital), and chances to meet PSO members up close and check out the flute and bassoon.

“After each performance, the cast and I go visit with the audience in the lobby,” says PSO Conductor Daniel Meyer, who also conducts the eight performances of Highmark Holiday Pops, Dec. 16-23. “The stories told, the smiles and hugs we get from the audience — who are so grateful to have a concert experience tailored to them — it completely makes the season for me. All the effort we make pays off and makes for a beautiful holiday season.”

There’s also a Quiet Room available any time during the concert, and a Music & Movement Room with dancers from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre that includes both standing and seated options. The concert itself features mitigation of sudden, loud sound, mid-level lighting, and you can leave or enter at any time (or change seats to be nearer or further from the stage). Audiences can also talk, clap, sing, dance and move during the concert. Free fidgets, earplugs and noise-cancelling headphones will be available.

The Sensory Friendly concert is made possible by generous grants from The Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield & Allegheny Health Network, Pirates Charities, and Bender Consulting Services.

Sensory Friendly Concert: Holiday Pops (2:30 p.m., Dec. 16)
Highmark Holiday Pops (eight performances, various times, Dec. 16 – Dec. 23)

Jan. 17 - 23, 2024: “COURAGE TO STAND,” HEINZ HALL
What do YOU stand for?

When musicians use their platform and voice to take a stand and push for change, it’s often liberating for those watching from afar, but it can be risky and lonely too. For this special series of “Courage to Stand” concerts — including several for school audiences and one evening show — Associate Conductor Moon Doh leads the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, with featured soloists including PSO Acting Principal Violist Tatjana Mead Chamis, guest vocalist Nikki Porter, and dancers including Yoshiaki Nakano from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

“Music has always mirrored the developments of society. Through ‘Courage to Stand’ concerts, the Pittsburgh Symphony will look at many individuals from the past and present, that have made a stand in one way or another. If you’d like to know how Beethoven or Florence Price changed the course of music history, this is the concert to attend. If you’d like to know how music unites people, this performance is a must,” says Moon Doh. “Personally, I’m excited to conduct this performance because I strongly believe that conductors have the responsibility to share not only the important musical masterpieces but also bring to light the lesser known compositions. I look forward to collaborating with different artists on stage, especially Yoshiaki Nakano from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater.”

This is music that outlasts, outshines, and out-dreams all barriers and includes epic statements from Beethoven, Pärt and Shostakovich, alongside Aaron Copland’s immortal Suite from “Appalachian Spring,” the traditional spiritual “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and Langston Hughes’ poem “I Dream a World” set to music that still echoes down the generations.

The Schooltime concerts are curated music experiences for young people, hoping to inspire and nurture a lifelong love of music. The family-friendly evening performance is for all ages and is offered at Pay What You Wish pricing.

Schooltime: The Courage to Stand (10:30 a.m., Jan. 17 and 23)
The Courage to Stand (7:00 p.m., Jan. 17)

Schooltime is made possible by generous support from the Emma Clyde Hodge Memorial Fund, the Jack Buncher Foundation, the Henry C. Frick Educational Fund of The Buhl Foundation, FedEx Ground, and S&T Bank.

Coming together in music makes hearts and voices soar.

The song “Lift Every Voice” has a history. Written by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson in 1900, now known to millions as “The Black National Anthem,” it was the soundtrack to the Civil Rights Movement. This concert pays tribute to the spirit and richness of Black music in America — and its enduring strength in times of tumult and trouble.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert, led by conductor Anthony Parnther, features the powerful voice of GRAMMY® Award winner Oleta Adams, whose gospel-rooted voice has graced era-defining albums like Tears For Fears’ “The Seeds of Love” (1989) and her own platinum-selling “Circle of One” (1990). It will also feature trombonist Cooper Cromwell-Whitley and the combined voices of the Lift Every Voice Unity Choir conducted by Nikki Porter. The show is intended for all ages — and performed by all ages too.

“I’m excited about Oleta Adams’ range: pop, gospel, ballads, tradition — I’m excited to work with her,” says Nikki Porter. “Our group is multigenerational, with singers in their 20s and in their 60s,” says Porter (who is also soloing with PSO for the “Courage to Stand” concerts). “It’s across generations that we honor Black culture, in tandem with the Symphony. It’s important to me because it makes the PSO experience attainable for everybody.”

Presented by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, AAMI (Afro-American Music Institute), and Stop the Violence Pittsburgh.

Lift Every Voice (7:00 p.m., Feb. 3)

Tickets are available now to the general public at the Heinz Hall Box Office at 600 Penn Ave. in downtown Pittsburgh, online at, or by phone at 412.492.4900. Ticket prices range from $15-$65.

Now in its 128th season, the internationally acclaimed Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) engages audiences of all ages through unparalleled live musical experiences, community collaborations, and educational programming that enrich every life with great music.

The GRAMMY® Award-winning symphony is led by Music Director Manfred Honeck, currently in his 14th season with the orchestra. Past music directors have included many of the greats, including Fritz Reiner, William Steinberg, André Previn, Lorin Maazel and Mariss Jansons. The Pittsburgh Symphony has a long and illustrious history in the areas of recordings and live radio broadcasts dating back to the 1930s. It has toured frequently both domestically and overseas since 1900 — including more than 40 international tours.

Heinz Hall, PSO’s home located at 600 Penn Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, is also owned and operated by the Pittsburgh Symphony. Follow the Pittsburgh Symphony online at, on Facebook, on Instagram, and on YouTube.


  • The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is grateful for overall support provided by local and state government entities: the Allegheny Regional Asset District, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  • Diehl Automotive Group is the official auto dealer of the Pittsburgh Symphony.
  • Fairmont Pittsburgh is the official hotel of the Pittsburgh Symphony.
  • Delta Air Lines is the official airline of the Pittsburgh Symphony.