Going inside a prison to share music-making

Posted on: November 11, 2014

In Monday’s (11/10) New Music Box, composer Julia Adolphe writes about her recent experience teaching music theory and appreciation at New York State’s maximum-security Auburn Correctional Facility. “Stuart Paul Duncan, the course instructor, had distributed large hand-written cards to the inmates, each labeled with a different pitch in the chromatic scale…. ‘Alright, gentlemen,’ Stuart called over the noise…. ‘We’re going to form a lineup!’ The men stared, not knowing if he was serious. ‘Take your cards,’ Stuart continued, ‘and stand in order of the chromatic scale. We’re going to form a human piano!’ Laughter and relief swept through the room.…  We hoped that the ‘human piano’ would enable the students to better visualize major and minor scales…. I reminded myself that I was not there to treat or regard them as criminals. My goal was to share the joys and mysteries of music making…. We were willing to stand beside them, aware of their crimes, yet still believing that the human need for education and artistic expression extends to those living behind bars. The lineup was no longer a threatening assembly of criminals but a team of individuals with the potential for creativity and growth.”

Posted November 11, 2014