Each year the McGill Alumni Association recognizes alumni, friends, students, faculty and staff whose commitment has had a significant impact on alumni life, the University and/or the community. This year, one of our graduates, Sarah Nematallah, has received the 2017 James G. Wright Award for her work in developing the accessible, interactive Xenia Concert Series for individuals with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and their families.
A graduate of McGill’s Schulich School of Music and founding member of the award-winning Cecilia String Quartet, Sarah worked with autism experts and health professionals at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children to create the concert series specifically for autism spectrum music lovers who are unable to attend traditional concerts and, as a result, are often excluded from such community events. Sarah, an accomplished violinist, took pains to ensure that all aspects of her quartet’s concerts were appropriate for the audience from music selections to lighting and staging. Children and their families were able to take in the show by sitting in their seats, lying on the floor, standing afar or dancing.
The resulting concert series was launched last year at Toronto’s Sony Centre for the Performing Arts and was enthusiastically received by attendees and praised by local media, including the Toronto Star. Now in its second season, Sarah’s musical venture has definitely captured the best of her musical talent and her community spirit, and struck a chord with appreciative audiences.