Follow Arts Capacity founder Holly Mulcahy as she chronicles her work developing and implementing our program activity. These posts begin with our very first program and follows that idea through the formation of our nonprofit.

Yes, And. The Early Days Of A New Nonprofit

After a few performances in the prisons over the last two years, it became clear we were bringing an entirely new and important conversation to the forefront. The conversations were never planned out. They consisted of sharing some music with prisoners and listening to their impressions, opinions, and thoughts. Outcome and expectations instinctively followed Improv Rules, specifically “Stop planning the next thing you’re going to say and just listen to the person in front of you,” and “Yes, And.” The philosophy of Yes, And is where an idea builds incrementally using a collaborative ensemble approach. Each collaborator in…

Perspectives of Love and Hope

Perspectives of Love and Hope

It’s easy for me to write about my perspective during my performances in the prison. I share my point of view and snippets from prisoner surveys along with their quotes taken during our two-way discussions after each piece is performed. For the latest recital, I invited two composers and a few guests from the community to join me. I also asked a few of them to share their unique perspectives and thoughts to add a different vantage point: From composer Wang Jie: To some, prisoners are animals behind locked bars. To me, they are fellow humans having locked…

Sharing Love and Hope Through Music

Sharing Love and Hope Through Music

The first time I performed in prison we discovered prisoners put great value in sharing their opinions. They knew their thoughts would be shared directly with the composers of the works they heard and that made them feel like their opinions mattered. The second time I performed in prison we gained a deeper appreciation for the power of music, especially contemporary music. Hearing directly from the prisoners how new works evoked emotions and thoughts helped shape the planning for the third prison performance. The theme of the third performance was chosen by the prisoners: Love and Hope. Creating…

What Prisoners Taught Me About Music Appreciation Part 2

What Prisoners Taught Me About Music Appreciation, Part 2

If you were serving a long-term prison sentence right now, what words or images do you think would come to mind? After this most recent performance at Walker State Faith and Character Based Prison, I asked the prisoners to share two words or themes they wanted connected to the music for the next recital program. (I’ll reveal those later!) The words I had chosen for this recent recital were Space and Intent. I picked pieces that exposed elements of space, whether silences or long phrases, and pieces that captured various tones of voice to represent Intent. When prisoners…

What Prisoners Taught Me About Music Appreciation

What Prisoners Taught Me About Music Appreciation

Returning to Walker State Faith and Character Based Prison this past week once again left me with more than I brought in. Joining me on the hour-long recital was Nashville cellist and social worker, Michael Samis. The recital began like it did the last time I played for the men in Walker State: a sample was played and initial impressions were freely shared by the 130 men in the prison gym. The impressions from the prisoners as they shared their thoughts of each piece were touching and I will share those in my next blog. But first, the…

Allowing Voices To Be Heard

Allowing Voices To Be Heard

It’s been nearly a month since performing a recital in Walker State Faith and Character Based Prison. The experience was no doubt memorable, but after finally reading all of the surveys prisoners filled out and notes jotted down by prisoner mentor, Alan Bonderud, it was clear we had something uniquely special. The reoccurring theme on the prisoners’ surveys was the impact they felt sharing their emotions or interpretations while experiencing each musical work. There was a distinct value placed on the living composers works and that sentiment was also mentioned a number of times within the surveys. According…

Tonight I didnt feel like an inmate

“Tonight I didn’t feel like an inmate”

It is next to impossible to sum up the feelings, the emotional impact, and the shared experiences at the recent violin recital in prison. Performing at Walker State Faith and Character Based Prison was one of those career highlights you don’t really expect, but are utterly grateful for. I published an article leading up to the performance, covering the plan, the reasons, and the hope for sincere impact in the lives of people who are working hard at self-improvement in a challenging environment and/or time in their lives. My expectations were exceeded. While many orchestras and chamber groups…

Medium Security Maximum Benefit

Medium Security, Maximum Benefit

For about two years I’ve been curious about bringing music into a prison. It started with the questions: Does music heal? Does music change lives? Does music inspire? Bringing music to a population of people in a place to be “corrected” makes for the right time and place to offer music for the sake of healing, changing, and inspiring. Prison performances are not new ideas by any means. Many orchestras and chamber groups are already doing this. But I’m going solo, violin solo that is, and it is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. In April I’ll…

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