Seattle Symphony Musicians Bring Peace, Hope to Monroe Inmates

Photo credit: Brandon Patoc

KNKX Public Radio accompanied a trio of Seattle Symphony musicians to the Monroe Correctional Complex this month for a special performance for a group of about 40 inmates. Ariel Van Cleave documented their powerful stories for the Sound Effect on KNKX 88.5.

You can listen to the audio postcard or read the transcript below:

Our theme today is peace of mind. And if you’re an inmate in a prison, finding any peace can be difficult. There’s no privacy and very little control over your environment, your schedule. And let’s face it: there’s not a lot of beauty in jail.

A few members of the Seattle Symphony are trying to give inmates some relief. A trio with the Symphony recently played for a group of about 40 inmates at the Monrore Correctional Complex. It turns out that both the musicians and the inmates get something out of these performances.

88.5’s Ariel Van Cleave was there and brought back this audio postcard:

Stephen Bryant: My name is Steve Bryant and I play the violin.

I do know that when we play well, and we have good instruments, we’re professionals, we play great music…that there’s magic in it. And that magic, I can’t put it into words. I just know that it’s there. I’ve accessed it so many times and I feel it.  And when I listen to it, if I get goose bumps, that’s good.  That means it’s working, touching the heart.

These are humans. We are all humans. This music does not belong to the people with money. It doesn’t belong to the people who can afford to go to the concert hall. Everybody deserves it. They need to hear it.  I don’t need to know what an inmate has done. They’re humans. And I think the power of music to transform us as humans…what could be better?

Joy Payton-Stevens: My name is Joy Payton-Stevens and I play cello.

I think I’ve probably played in the prisons at least four times. And of a lot of mays it’s almost better. These guys listen with such respect and attention and they’re here because they really want to be here. I guess they could be doing any number of things at this time, but the guys that are in this room are here because they opted to come listen to us. And they listen with the most rapt attention. It’s kind of a special environment.

I think that music and art in general is one of the most powerful things. I think everyone needs to commune with that in some form or another. And I think the more the better. But not everyone always has that option.

Dion Thomas: My name is Dion Thomas and I have heard the Symphony here for the first time.

Music moved me on various levels. I was very appreciative that people of this caliber cared enough to come hang out in here with us.

Kevin Broers: My name is Kevin Broers and this is the first time I’ve ever watched a live symphony up close.

For me, being up close like that I could feel the energy live a lot differently than listening on the radio or an mp3. It was a really moving experience, because I could feel it. And watching them move: it was almost a tai-chi of music, it was real natural.

Dion Thomas:

Well, if I’m being honest, I had somewhat of an emotional response to it. Because Kevin and I have been friends for years, he’ll tell you that I play the piano and sing in multiple languages. I’m a Detroit kid who never really had these opportunities to learn classicaly, but I can sing arias and stuff like this. I think it’s a very ironic thing for me to finally have an opportunity to hear these kindred spirits.

Kevin Broers:

I find it very refreshing. I found the overall mood, and just the way people normally act, compared to before hand and then after, the room felt more stable. Real calm waters.

Dion Thomas:

I happen to be of the Jewish faith and today is a really important holy day for us, it’s Passover. Music is all about timing and mathematics and order and here it all lines up to one of the most important days in my faith.

It spoke to this idea that I have value….And it’s to be able to say that I’m part of the bigger community, that I’m part of something bigger than myself. And it spoke to this idea that you don’t have to be limited because of your circumstance.

Listen now to the original story on KNKX Public Radio 88.5.


The Seattle Symphony’s Family, School & Community programs are supported by 4Culture, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, The Boeing Company, Citi Community Capital, The Clowes Fund, Inc., the Elizabeth McGraw Foundation, KeyBank Foundation, the League of American Orchestras, Richard and Francine Loeb, Kjristine Lund, D.V. and Ida J. McEachern Charitable Trust, the Merriman Family, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Music4Life, Music Works Northwest, the National Endowment for the Arts, Peach Foundation, the Peg and Rick Young Foundation, Russell Investments, Seattle Pacific University, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation, Christine and Michel Suignard, Ten Grands Seattle, Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund, the U.S. Bank Foundation, UW Autism Center, Weill Music Institute, Wells Fargo Foundation, the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation, the Wyman Youth Trust, and individual contributions to the Seattle Symphony Annual Fund.

Posted on May 23, 2017

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