Christchurch Symphony Orchestra chimes in on youth development at Christchurch Men's Prison video

DAVID WALKER/Stuff.co.nz

The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra has been working on a show with Christchurch Men's Prison's youth unit to put together a piece for its education programme.

When Brad* effortlessly plucks Hotel California on guitar his passion for music becomes obvious.

The 19 year old is a youth unit inmate at Christchurch Men's Prison, but if a project with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO) pays off it could become a way for him to further work towards his goal.

"I had a lot of music influence already and I just wanted to carry it on in here. It's good to do it in here," he said.

Christchurch Symphony Orchestra musician Cathy Irons shows the inmates some of what she's capable of with a violin.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Christchurch Symphony Orchestra musician Cathy Irons shows the inmates some of what she's capable of with a violin.

"[I spent] a lot of time on my own [growing up], out on a farm. I needed something to do . . . It's something I want to pursue later in life."

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Brad and others from the unit recently performed for a group of visitors, staff and other inmates after a week working with CSO members Cathy Irons, Mark La Roche and Hamish Oliver.

Brad* and two fellow inmates perform Hotel California.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Brad* and two fellow inmates perform Hotel California.

Guitars and ukuleles were played and percussion came in the form of drum sticks on 10-litre buckets or clap songs.

Irons, the CSO's community engagement project leader, said the programme began with schools in the South Island, but had been developed and was for the first time brought into a prison.

"It had this way of drawing people in. Children who might normally be on the outside were really involved and giving things a go," Irons said.

Department of Corrections rehabilitation and learning principal advisor Maree Abernethy says the performances are part ...
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Department of Corrections rehabilitation and learning principal advisor Maree Abernethy says the performances are part of a wider arts programme run in prisons.

She had worked with Pathway Trust and Corrections to get it running in the unit and the reception from prisoners, all of whom volunteered to take part, had been "amazing".

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"You get a real sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself when you play in a symphony orchestra and I wanted to replicate that feeling with the guys at the unit."

Pathway Trust reintegration manager Carey Ewing said inmates learning new skills, or simply knowing they had the capability to do so, positively transferred into other parts of life.

Percussionists use buckets to form the beat.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Percussionists use buckets to form the beat.

"It just builds into this sense of 'I could do something new, I could do life differently, I can be known for something other than being a bad boy'. It builds another narrative of who you can be."

Department of Corrections rehabilitation and learning principal advisor Maree Abernethy said the performance also fitted in with a wider arts programme Corrections had been running.

The day's events included another first for the unit, as youth's new kapa haka group performed for visitors entering for the performance.

A prisoner shows what he learned on a ukulele in just one week.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

A prisoner shows what he learned on a ukulele in just one week.

When Brad and two fellow inmates finished playing Hotel California – two on guitar and one on percussion – heads turned to the back of the room as a Corrections officer spoke up.

"I've been working in a jail for 18 years and that's the best bit of stuff that I've seen from prisoners," he said.

Later, Brad said he thought the course was "going to have a big impact".

"I'm going to try and look to do something like this again – talk to the PCOs [Corrections officers] and what not to try and have something to get the boys involved in.

"Guitar, for me that's my strong point."

* Name has been changed to protect the prisoner's identity.

 - The Press

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