Guest artists Diane Monroe & Linda Rosenthal

Guest artists Diane Monroe & Linda Rosenthal

Help Arts on the Edge

Help Arts on the Edge

Welcome to the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center Women’s String Orchestra,

a prison orchestra supported by the nonprofit Arts on the Edge.

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About us

Gabrielle Whitfield

Artistic Director of HMCC Orchestra

When Arts on the Edge approached me in 2004 to conduct the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center Women’s String Orchestra, I accepted the position without question.  Being asked to conduct a string orchestra comprised entirely of female prison inmates was the most unique musical offer I had ever received.  I would have been a fool to pass it up.  I remember my first rehearsal with them well:  mixed feelings of nervousness and excitement.  At the time, I was only in my mid-twenties and hadn’t been teaching long.  I was worried about earning their acceptance.  Many of the women were at least twice my age, and some had been in prison since I was in elementary school.  They came with a set of unimaginable life experiences.  I, on the other hand, didn’t have an ounce of street credit.  I grew up in Anchorage and came from a completely ordinary, middle-class background.  How could they relate to someone like me?

Luckily, when it came to music, our commonalities far outweighed our differences.  Once notes and rhythms became the focus, our dissimilarities began to fade away.  They went through the same trials and tribulations of any beginning orchestra:  posture, squeaking, playing out of tune, and that illusive technique of vibrato.  Stringed instruments are notoriously difficult and temperamental.  Luckily, the ladies never take themselves too seriously, and always approach orchestra class with an admirable sense of humor.  Laughter is what I enjoy most about our Saturday rehearsals.  For two hours a week, the prison walls fade away:  it just feels like music class.  I remember one time several years ago, a Hiland bass player remarked to me, “this is the only fun thing I’ve ever done that wasn’t illegal.  Playing the bass has changed my life for the better.”

As their musicianship has continued to improve over the past six years, so has their sense of self worth.  When living in prison, it’s easy to lose one’s sense of identity.  Prisoners live regimented lifestyles, and have very little control over most aspects of their lives.  Playing a musical instrument gives them a new sense of identity and pride.  They are no longer just numbers in a correctional institution—they are musicians.

Thank you for your overwhelming support of the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center Women’s String Orchestra during the past six years.  If it were not for the support of local Anchorage musicians and community members, this would not exist.  In the words of cellist Yo Yo Ma, “I hope we shall never stop.”

History

In the Fall of 2003, two long-time friends were visiting. Beginning cellist Pati Crofut was yearning for an adult beginning orchestra to play with. Janice Weiss, Education Director of Hiland Mountain Correctional Center, was looking for educational programs for the incarcerated women. The rest is history.

Arts on the Edge supports the women's orchestra at hiland mountain prison

A 501c3, Arts on the Edge was formed. Mike Doogan, Anchorage Daily News columnist wrote a column about the venture. The resulting publicity generated instrument donations. One violin, acquired from a local pawnshop for $50.00 appraised at $2000 and was miraculously transformed into four lesser violins. Individuals were asked for donations. Jackie Davis a local high school music teacher was hired to teach and conduct the women.

The original orchestra consisted of eight women with no musical background. Orchestra class met every Saturday and the musicians were encouraged to practice during the week. Starting with 6th grade musical literature, the inmates were taught to read music, understand rhythm and ‘play well with others’. Guardian angels agreed to endow the chairs. An orchestra was born.

With an innovative and forward-thinking prison superintendent – Dean Marshall, helpful prison correctional officers and administration, the first public concert was held inside the prison on Saturday, June 12, 2004. There are three orchestras now with 30 women. The advanced orchestra has progressed from sixth grade musical literature to high school level. Except for minor grants, the orchestra is self-supporting through concert ticket sales and crafts made by the inmates.

The prison holiday concert is held the first Saturday in December each year. The prison orchestras perform some musical pieces alone and others assisted by musicians from the Anchorage Symphony and the Anchorage musical community. Each year there is also a well-known guest artist. This year we are so very fortunate to have guest artist cellist, Zuill Bailey.

Press Room

In the NewsThe Associate Press posted this headline for its coverage of Arts on the Edge

Anchorage Press (front page)
Alaska Dispatch (video)
Channel 2 News
Alaska News Nightly
Hometown Alaska
Alaska Star

An Associated Press story was picked up by 137 news outlets including the Anchorage Daily NewsThe Seattle TimesBoston GlobeUS News and World ReportFox, and the Washington Post.

 

Contact

To send us a message or just to say hello, please complete the form below or contact us via details listed on the left.

Pati Crofut

3955 Westwood Drive
Anchorage, Alaska 99517

907 632-9448

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Blog

Visit our archive

The Tenth Annual Hiland Mountain Women’s String Orchestra Holiday Concert With Special Guest Artists: Jazz Violinist Diane Monroe, Tony Miceli Vibraphone & Violinist Linda Rosenthal DATE: Saturday, December 7, 2013 TIME: (2 Concerts): 12:30 & 3:30 LOCATION: Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River, Alaska TICKET PRICE: $30.00 donation (tax deductible) CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE [...]

The Ninth Annual Hiland Mountain Women’s String Orchestra Holiday Concert Saturday, December 8, 2012 12:30 pm, and 3:30 pm Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River, Alaska $30.00 donation – tax deductible Directions Driving north toward Eagle River on the Glenn Highway, exit right at Hiland Road. Cross Hiland at the off-ramp sign and continue [...]

Sponsorship

2012 
Sponsorship
 Program

Thank
 you
 for 
your 
interest
 in
 sponsoring 
the
 Hiland
 Mountain
 Correctional
 Center
 Women’s
 String 
Orchestra. 

Your
 contribution
 provides
 a 
unique 
and
 meaningful
 opportunity
 not 
only
 for 
the
 women
 who
 participate 
in 
the 
orchestra, 
but
 for 
the
 entire 
Hiland 
Mountain 
community 
as 
well.


Orchestra 
Sponsor
­
 $1,500

‐ 20 
tickets
‐ Full 
page
 in 
the
 program
‐ Co‐branding
 on 
all
 promotional 
material*

Quartet 
Sponsor 
­
$750

‐ 20 
tickets
‐ 1⁄2
 page
 in 
the 
program
‐ Co‐branding 
on
 event 
posters*

1st 
Chair
 Sponsor
­
 $300

‐ 10 
tickets
‐ Program
 Listing


Patron 
­
$100

‐ 3 
tickets

‐ Program 
Listing

 





To 
become 
a 
sponsor 
please
 email 
Pati 
at 
crofutp@aol.com
*Sponsorship 
must
 be 
received 
by
 November 
9,
 2012