Saturday, June 4, 2011

Finnish National Opera Brings Workshop to Kerava Prison

"Music therapy lets prisoners think of freedom. Despite documented benefits, therapy sessions at prisons are rare. Eight men, all convicted of serious crimes, are sitting in a classroom with Nigerian drums in front of them. A music therapy workshop produced by the Finnish National Opera is about to start at the Kerava Prison. Miro Mantere, the teacher of the workshop, gives an example, and the men burst out laughing. 'This is quite different from what we imagined,' says prisoner Joni, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. The group has made experimental music using a number of instruments, including sugar cube cartons and guitars. So far, the men have already recorded five pieces. A record publishing
event will be held next Tuesday. 'We will bake something good to eat with coffee, and all members of the group will have a CD of their own,' says Helena Rapeli, the substance abuse therapist at the Kerava Prison. Therapy sessions at prisons are rare. Short projects and courses are organised at certain prisons, but there is no regular programme. 'It is a shame, as such activities provide an exception for prisoners’ long and dull everyday life,' Rapeli notes. Previously, for example individual theatre-related therapy projects have been arranged behind bars. This is the first time when the Finnish National Opera has organised music therapy for prisoners. 'It seems that various art and culture institutions are gradually awakening to the idea of
running cultural projects even in prisons,' contemplates Usko Määttä, Head of Information at the Criminal Sanctions Agency. In the staff’s view, music therapy has had only a positive effect on prison inmates. The prisoners agree with their opinion. 'I had an opportunity to play the guitar, something that I have wanted to do for a long time,' Joni notes. Even Miro Mantere is pleased, but the best feedback Mantere heard after the first music session. 'One of the prisoners smiled for the first time in two months, I was told,' Mantere notes. [Source]

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