By Christina Armeni

Kids are taught manners and etiquette from a young age. When we are little we are told to be quiet in movies and to not fidget at the dinner table. For some kids, this can be extremely challenging, and cause unnecessary stress to the parents and the children themselves. On Nov. 13, The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center offered Azure, a show without rules, where kids of all different abilities were free to be kids.

Azure is a sensory friendly concert series that was started by a California pianist, composer, and father of a son with autism. These concerts are aimed toward kids and adults with cognitive disabilities. Inspired by the concept, the string quartet Invoke wanted to bring the show to the University of Maryland. The campus has a special place in the group’s heart as they are all alumni, two of the members graduating most recently in 2016.

Jane Hirshberg, assistant director of campus and community engagement at The Clarice, said this was the first sensory friendly show to be brought to the University of Maryland.

The show was free and offered in the intimately-sized Dance Theatre. The performers stood on a raised platform placed in the middle of the floor. In addition to the traditional seating, there were small carpets set up around the performers so anyone could feel welcome to move around and sit on the floor.

The Clarice’s website described the show as a “free of judgement” event. The one-hour show was exactly that. Kids were free to make noise, clap, sing, dance, move around, and do anything else that would normally be considered improper theatre behavior. Hirshberg, who hopes to continue these types of shows, said that parents were able to “enjoy a high quality concert experience without worrying.”

The music was lively and entertaining for everyone. The quartet was definitely not confined to one genre, playing every type of song from classical to folk to jazz. One of the members of the quartet, Nick Montopoli, played the violin during the show as well as the crowd favorite, banjo. “It’s always great to be here,” Montopoli said when asked about being back on campus, adding that “this is the atmosphere that created the group that we’re in now.”

Azure was an overall warm event that brought smiles to parents and kids and adults alike. The show was a great place for kids of all abilities to be themselves and parents to enjoy wonderful music without any worry.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Invoke’s Facebook page. 

Christina Armeni is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at

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