Alaska women’s prison inmates find creative outlet in orchestra

Posted on: December 4, 2012

An Associated Press report published in Monday’s (12/3) Washington Post states, “After serving a 14-year sentence for murder, no one would have expected Sarah Jane Coffman to go anywhere near the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center once she was released. But every Saturday she makes the 10-mile drive with a viola in tow for orchestra practice at the prison just north of Anchorage. Coffman, a founding member of the women’s string orchestra at the prison in 2003, will debut as a citizen member when the two annual holiday concerts are held Saturday. Acclaimed cellist Zuill Bailey will also perform with the women. ‘It probably seems weird to other people,’ said Coffman, who was released Feb. 1. ‘A lot of people I love and care about are here, my friends. It’s almost a little comforting to see them, but I’m very happy to leave when it’s time to go.’ … Pati Crofut, director of the Anchorage-based Arts on the Edge, founded the orchestra nine years ago at the suggestion of a friend, who was the educational coordinator at the prison. … Conductor Gabrielle Whitfield, also an Anchorage public schools teacher, said the Saturday practices at the prison are the highlight of her week. ‘They always say the greater a person’s sadness in life, the greater their capacity for joy,’ she said. ‘I totally find that to be true here.’ ”

Posted December 4, 2012