Sing it Out
Some have the Shawshank view of prisons—that a stern hand can provide both punishment and redemption. Others see an alternative: the power of music. In a new documentary, Conducting Hope, Westport Productions director Margie Friedman (daughter of celebrated Westport artist Steffi Friedman) takes us on the journey of the East Hills Singers, a prison choir in Lansing Correctional Facility outside of Kansas City. Founded in 1995, the choir is sponsored by the nonprofit Arts in Prison and is comprised of nearly sixty inmates and volunteers. Conducting Hope revolves around the choir’s spring concert, one of several performances it puts on for the public each year. Controversially, the performances are held outside of prison; the documentary argues that allowing prisoners to express themselves benefits not only the incarcerated but also the world they will eventually re-enter. Choir director Kirk Carson weighs in: “I know their names, I know they’re in jail. I don’t know why they’re here. I’m here to lead a choir, I didn’t come here to judge these guys; I don’t want them judging me.” The film aired nationally recently on American Public Television. See a clip at conductinghope.com.