CMSSL has partnered with the Saint Louis University Prison Program for the past six years to create a concert series for the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison in Bonne Terre, Missouri. A group of CMSSL musicians makes the trip with SLU administrators annually to perform at the facility. Our presentation is distributed between performing, sharing information on the music, instruments and performers, and engaging our audience in a musical discussion. We enjoy the thoughtful questions and enthusiastic reception we receive with each visit. The recidivism rate of participants in the SLU Prison Program is ZERO as they do not return to prison after release.
The commentary below was recently supplied by a SLU representative acknowledging the impact the musicians had on the prison environment:
St. Louis University Prison Arts Program-ERDCC Reflections on CMSSL Performances
Every year for the past five years Chamber Music Society of St. Louis has visited Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (ERDCC), a maximum-security prison in Bonne Terre, Missouri, at the invitation of the Prison Program of Saint Louis University. For two hours, the group performs in the Visitors Center to an audience of about sixty men. For those in attendance, the music offers a rare opportunity to hear live music of any kind, much less of the highest calibre of performance. It also offers a rare opportunity to experience aesthetic pleasure, and to be profoundly moved by a shared experience of art. As one person said in a discussion following the performance, with an enthusiasm that is widely shared, “This is the best day of my year.” Another commented on Puccini’s elegy “Crisantemi” [Crysanthemums], “I could picture every phase of a person’s life, through the funeral, when I closed my eyes and listened to this music.” On each visit, the audience has expressed curiosity about aspects of written music, the history of the instruments, and the performance of chamber and orchestral music. Members of CMSSL have responded to every question with generosity, warmth, and insight. Prisons tend to be hostile environments, and places in which beauty is rare. The music that CMSSL brings, and the spirit in which they bring it, is not only educational but transformative. As one person responded, “It is, perhaps, the unlikeliest place to find a live performance by a world-class chamber group.” I can think of no setting in which the music felt more joyful or more necessary.
CMSSL musicians will visit the Bonne Terre facility again this year on March 19th.