12% of $20,000 goal
Dear Friends and Community,
I have incredibly exciting news!!! Believe Music Heals was just approved for a 16-week Finding Your Voice Music Program for 25 individuals at San Quentin State Prison! It is slated to begin November 1st! For the past 10 months the board members of Believe Music Heals and I have been working diligently with the resident Rabbi, Paul Shleffar, the prison program coordinator and the warden at San Quentin to make this program possible. Lieutenant Gardea just gave us the green light for a Fall schedule that carries through Spring 2024!! I am beyond thrilled!
We will bring the healing power of music to these select inmates starting with breath work and voice, then singing together, playing instruments, and progressing to writing songs both independently and in collaboration. The journey will culminate in a collection of professional recordings to comprise an album featuring original songs written and performed by the residents at San Quentin.
One year ago, I founded Believe Music Heals as a not-for-profit organization with the mission of bringing healing through music to those who need it most. Our goal is to bring people peace and hope during times of distress and hardship, by using music as a vehicle for self-expression, creativity, comfort, and transformation.
I’d like to share with you a series of ‘coincidences’ that have led me to this opportunity at San Quentin. Two years ago a man, who I’ll call “Joe”, replied to my ad on Craigslist and started coming to me for voice lessons. Joe was a recent parolee from San Quentin. He had served in the Navy before being incarcerated. During his years at San Quentin, Joe picked up the guitar and started to write songs. He told me music helped him through his hardest days in prison. When Joe got patrolled in 2021, he decided to take his love for music to the next level. Joe wanted to sing, play guitar, and write songs as a means of healing his spirit, making sense of his life experiences, and to create a new identity for himself as he reintegrated into the world outside. Joe told me stories about the talent of the residents in San Quentin. He said he had never heard voices with more soul, more conviction, more heart, and more purity. I was fascinated. I wanted to hear those voices. I know first hand that music is the one thing that carries me through the darkest times of my own life. I could only imagine how important music must be for those who have lost their freedom.
I could not get the thought of teaching music at San Quentin out of my mind. Then one day, I saw an email from someone asking for an electric guitar to donate to San Quentin. I replied and one thing led to another until soon after, I was volunteering to teach a music workshop under the guidance of Rabbi Paul Shleffar, at the Chapel in San Quentin. It was incredibly powerful to witness the creativity sparked and connections built between the participants. The program was a huge success. I felt moved to pursue a longer program so the learning could reach deeper and I am so proud to tell you that this is now a reality.
We need your support! We have applied for grants and we are still waiting to hear back. Meanwhile, we have a start date slated for November 1st and we are hoping that YOU, our community, will help launch this program. I believe that once the program is happening and proving to be successful that we will receive grants to keep it going for a longtime, but for now —
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT to make this happen!
We need to raise $20,000
This amount will include:
3 Teachers (professional musicians)
2 Engineers (professional recording engineers)
Production and Editing Services
Gear, Supplies and Insurance
CD Pressing & Digital Streaming Service Set Up
Release Planning & Set Up
PROGRAM START DATE: NOVEMBER 1st!
Dates of Program:
November: 1, 8, 15, 29
December: 6, 13, 20
January: 3, 10, 17, 21, 31
February: 7, 14, 28
Final Performance Date: To Be Determined
We are proceeding with the program in good faith that the community shows its support. I will post progress reports weekly for each of the classes. We hope to be granted permission to document and photograph the classes.
I am confident this program will transform lives. I believe it will build confidence, foster creativity, create community, and deliver an opportunity for healing and personal transformation. Healing through music is a powerful way to help individuals treat, cope, and transcend physical, emotional, cognitive and social challenges. Studies show that music helps lower heart rate and blood pressure as well as cortisol in the body. Scientific evidence suggests music causes extensive activation of the brain, promoting the repair of motor and neural systems helping the recovery in stroke patients, reducing symptoms of depression, improving memory, dementia, Alzheimer’s, cardiac conditions, substance abuse, pain management, and even healing from injuries/surgery.
Music can help us process and navigate heartbreak, grief, and other complex emotions, ease anxiety, fear and help improve self esteem and mood. Music has a way of opening our hearts and helping us feel more connected to others, to ourselves, and to the world around us. As a result, it can serve as a direct path to our ability to maintain balance and improve mental health.
Music can become a legacy and a path to transformation.
I know I am not the first person to bring music into prisons. Of course, Johnny Cash paved the way by bringing his music behind bars in San Quentin and by recording Folsom Prison Blues. But I have wondered to myself, what impact would it have, if inmates had the chance to tell their own stories through music? Because EVERYONE HAS A STORY, and EVERYONE HAS A VOICE.
The inmates will have the opportunity to write their truth, their sorrows, regrets, and lessons learned in the form of a song, from the place where they are in their lives today.
As they tell their stories through music they will have the chance to redefine how they see themselves and how others see them. I am committed and inspired to move forward in this spirit.
I ask you, my friends, my community, to please help us support this music program at San Quentin.
Please click the ‘GIVE BUTTER’ Page and DONATE TODAY!!
For more info, please visit:
Believe Music Heals is a fiscally sponsored project of MarinLink, a California nonprofit corporation exempt from federal tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service #20-0879422.