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 a 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.
In 2012 Music for Autism International was founded by Jill Bradford and Henry Tillman. The idea behind this was that Jill and John Lubbock would travel to various places for a week and teach the people there to do what John does in the UK so that the teachers can continue with the concerts once Jill and John have left. So far projects in Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong have been established with great success and plans are going ahead for a visit to China.
Music for Autism, Music for Autism USA and Music for Autism International are separate organisations with their own independent managements and constitutions and are all dedicated to bringing music into the lives of autistic children.