Tuesday 16th April

Music bringing sense of achievement to men in prisons

With drum sticks and buckets, ukuleles and guitars, a group of men from Christchurch Men’s Prison are using music to gain confidence and find their passion.

Over the past six weeks, musicians from the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and a group of participants from the Christchurch Men’s Prison have been working together on several music projects for the CSO’s Karawhiua Arts Programme, a programme developed with Pathway Reintegration as part of their Navigate Initiative.

Launched in October 2017, the Navigate Initiative is an innovative partnership between Corrections and Pathway Trust aimed to strengthen the preparedness of prisoners for parole, give them greater ability to successfully live and work in the community, and helping them maintain their commitment to a crime free life on release.

The reintegration support programme covers practical life and employment skills as well as the chance to discover and develop different interests in life such as art and music. 

“Everybody needs to find something in their life that they are good at and enjoy, that they feel they can have a future in, and that has meaning for them,” explained Carey Ewing, Pathway Reintegration Manager. “Being able to show yourself you can gain mastery of something and then being recognised for being able to do that is important for anybody to be complete. This programme gives the men the opportunity to experience that.

“The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra’s Karawhiua Arts Programme is one of those conduits. We also have a writers’ group, a book club, a music jamming session, a cultural development session, and an artist in residence.”

Participants in the Karawhiua Arts Programme learned to play New Zealand Composer Gareth Farr’s percussion piece Little Sea Gongs, arranged by CSO Principal Timpani Mark La Roche, using drum sticks and buckets.

“It’s been lovely to see all the guys giving it a go,” said CSO Principal Viola Serenity Thurlow. “The Little Sea Gongs piece is tricky enough for trained musicians so it’s impressive what these guys with no formal training have achieved.

“I hope that they feel a sense of achievement. There’s been a great improvement from the first session to the last.”

 “There is a great deal of latent talent in our prisons and these activities all support offender rehabilitation and are popular pastimes for individuals and groups in our services,” said Jo Harrex, Prison Director of Christchurch Men’s Prison

“Through this music programme with the orchestra, the men are learning that while each individual has an important part to play. It is as a group working together that we create can something really special.”

“I’ve really enjoyed these sessions and I want to continue with it,” said one of the participants, who had never played music before. “So, if there’s a chance, I’m up for it. [I’ve learned] patience and [to] never give up. [It’s] something I can teach my kids when I get home.”

At the end of the programme, the participants celebrated their achievements in a showcase concert for Corrections staff and specially invited guests, where they performed five pieces with the musicians, including Little Sea Gongs, Duke Ellington’s C Jam Blues, and an amalgamation of a Bach piece with an original composition by one of the participants.

The CSO's Community Engagement Programme is sponsored by Beca.