Music in Prisons
I have been blessed to be a musician and to make my living doing something rewarding and fulfilling. Often my audience is made up of people of privilege, but recently I have been visiting prisons in Oregon, and the experiences have been profound and unforgettable. The first place was Coffee Creek, a women’s prison In Wilsonville, and I went there with five string students from Portland State University, where I have been teaching for 42 years. We played for 50 women, and a few months later, the six of us went to Columbia River, a men’s prison in Portland. After we performed, some of the inmates sang and shared poetry with us, and it was an inspiring and meaningful afternoon. In August I played solo Bach at Two Rivers in eastern Oregon, where I again talked about the music and answered any questions that arose. The last piece I played was Casals’ signature piece “Song of the Birds”, and one of the inmates raised his hand after I played, speaking with great emotion about hearing Pablo Casals perform live in San Juan in 1961. He was in tears recalling Casals’ own performance of Song of the Birds. Another man told me that the 90 minute evening reminded him of the scene in “Shawsank Redeption” which involved a Mozart duet being played over the prison P.A. and bringing the men out of their grim world for a few minutes. My feeling is that this activity is truly SICA, and I hope to do this kind of thing as often as possible.