In September 2012, the deans of Metropolitan College and BU’s College of Fine Arts (CFA) announced the first recipients of the Prison Arts Scholar Award. Jamie Hillman (CFA’13), who is completing his doctorate in conducting at CFA, and Emily Howe (STH’11), conductor of the Boston University Choral Society, were recognized for their outstanding contributions to teaching music to prisoners in MET’s Prison Education Program.
College of Fine Arts Dean Benjamín Juárez, who holds a joint faculty appointment in MET’s Arts Administration program, noted that “Jamie and Emily’s commitment and fervor to music education in the prison system is a testament to their ability to teach and to the power of the arts. Jamie and Emily are inspirations, true citizen artists, and it is an honor to name them the first Prison Arts Scholars.”
Established in 1972, MET’s Prison Education Program offers a course of study leading to a Bachelor of Liberal Studies in Interdisciplinary Studies at three correctional facilities: MCI–Norfolk, a men’s prison; MCI–Framingham, a women’s prison; and the Bay State Correctional Center. In August 2011, criminal justice alumna Karin Addison Jack (MET’08) established the Addison Female Prisoner Education Fund at Boston University with an endowment gift of $1.5 million.
Hillman and BU Professor of Music André de Quadros first brought Music Appreciation to the men at Norfolk in the spring of 2012. This past fall, Special Topics in Music History and Theory was added to the roster at Norfolk, while Music Appreciation arrived at MCI–Framingham for the first time, team-taught by Howe and Professor de Quadros.
“Jamie Hillman and Emily Howe represent a remarkable combination of musical excellence, leadership, creative work, and humanity,” says de Quadros. “They are truly breaking new ground by working on prison programs that are unique in content and process. Through this, they are transforming lives and demonstrating the power of music.”
Despite its connotations, “music appreciation” is not simply about sitting and listening to music; rather, it demands full, vocal participation. As Howe explains, “The Music Appreciation class is extremely interactive. I assign some listening tasks, but the students experience most of the music firsthand by singing it themselves. We sing songs from different musical periods and cultures, we discuss basic musicological and theoretical terminology as it pertains to this music, and we keep a journal about our musical experiences.”
“We’re trying to explore music theory and music history by practical means,” says Hillman, who teaches the Special Topics course. “Prisoners can’t have instruments in the prison classrooms, so we are using our voices, our bodies, our minds—all three together to explore the history and theory of music.”
“The most meaningful thing we can do for these students—for any student, in fact—is to empower them to trust in their own voices,” affirms Howe. “By encouraging our students to sing, we are teaching them to honor and respect their own voices and the voices of others. We are teaching them to lead, to listen, to support one another, and work together as a team. We are giving our students the tools they need to create something beautiful as a community. The medium we explore happens to be music, but my hope is that the skills our students absorb in this course will make them better citizens, better friends, better mothers, better sisters, and more self-actualized people.”
Dr. Jenifer Drew (GRS’78, GRS’84), director of the Prison Education Program and associate professor of justice studies and sociology at Lasell College, acknowledges that the program has seen great success with the “arts-in-prison” approach, pairing academic exploration of music appreciation with hands-on engagement in music. “Other faculty in the Prison Education Program do similar work with Shakespeare and contemporary theatre, and an experiential approach to Art Appreciation is also in the works. I am so pleased to have such dedicated members of the CFA as André de Quadros, Jamie Hillman, and Emily Howe serving as faculty of the Boston University Prison Education Program.”
Dean Halfond adds, “Since BU instructors and incarcerated students do not have the tools we now take for granted in teaching, this puts even greater emphasis on faculty creativity. This is a valuable experience for these future scholars and practitioners in music education and an important recognition that should serve them well in their careers.”