Autism Fun Bay Area, based in San Francisco, California, was founded in 2012 by concert pianist Stephen Prutsman and his wife Sigrid Van Bladel, parents of a young teen with autism. Our Azure events aim to make music and the performing arts accessible to audiences for whom regular performances are typically off limits or difficult due to behaviors or sensory challenges.
We have partnered with the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Stanford Jazz Workshop, Symphony Silicon Valley, Ballet San Jose, and many other arts organizations around the Bay, as well as several outside the Bay Area. Azure concerts have been held in San Diego, Sacramento, St. Paul, Phoenix, Canada, and even Kosovo and Bulgaria! We also sponsor a series of autism family-friendly Jazz Jams in San Francisco. In total, we host approximately 15 events per year, ranging in size from 20 to 200 participants.
The project is run by volunteers and is led by a volunteer board. We have been awarded grants from Autism Speaks, the Goldman Foundation, and, most recently, the Intero Foundation, which help us continue our tradition of offering special events to special-needs families.
Board of Directors
Stephen Prutsman, president
Stephen is an internationally acclaimed concert pianist and composer who has been described as one of the
most innovative musicians of his time. Moving easily
from classical to jazz to world music styles, Stephen explores and seeks common ground and relationships in the music of all cultures and languages. He brings the same energy and enthusiasm for music to special-needs audiences as he does his regular audiences.
Learn more about him at StephenPrutsman.com.
Sigrid Van Bladel, PhD, vice president and treasurer
Sigrid is a businesswoman and scientist who loves creating opportunities for autism families to enjoy the arts.
Jill Escher, JD, MA, secretary
Jill is president of Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area, a busy autism science philanthropist (Escher Fund for Autism), and the mother of two children with autism.
I attended one of your concerts for the first time last week with my 8.5-year-old non-verbal autistic son and his neurotypical almost-6-year-old sister. I was nervous about it: even though I know that listening to recorded music - especially Mozart - often calms him down when he is hyper, sad or frustrated, he has never been to a live concert and several attempts at taking him to regular children's shows have been difficult. At the concert last week he only got up 2-3 times and was pretty calm and quiet, I didn't need to take out food or iPads to keep him preoccupied - overall a big success - his little sister also fell in love with the viola at the concert!
– Yael Naveh, Palo Alto, California
On behalf of our group I would like to thank everyone for all your hard working putting together the special performance of Cinderella with Ballet San Jose. We had an amazing time and could be ourselves without any pressure to be quiet. It was so heartwarming to see the news supporting our kids and putting our needs out in the community. This was truly a night to remember.
– Jan Kasahara, Silicon Valley Moms with Special Needs Kids
Thank you so very much! Our family enjoyed the performance. Please extend our gratitude to both Autism Fun Bay Area and Ballet San Jose. I could not believe that we were actually able to relax and truly enjoy a show.
– Mary Le