For the past year and a half, Songs in the Key of Free has been bringing weekly songwriting and music lessons to about 25 inmates at Montgomery County’s SCI Graterford, entirely for free.
The volunteer-led group has hosted a handful of concerts both inside and outside of the state prison’s walls, performing the men’s original songs with the help of musicians from groups such as the Anna Crusis Women’s Choir and the Curtis Institute of Music.
Now, Songs wants to spread the music further by recording an album and podcast of its musicians’ songs, and it needs $5,000 to make it happen.
The group is crowdfunding via Kickstarter to pay for a record producer and recording engineers, instrument repair, distribution fees, bass strings, album jackets and the like. Recording has already begun, but much of the equipment currently being used is borrowed, said Songs cofounder August Tarrier; eventually, the group would like to purchase its own.
There’s an urgency to Songs’ ask: Graterford is set to close this summer when its $400 million replacement, SCI Phoenix, opens, and Songs recently lost an institutional advocate in Cynthia Link, Graterford’s former superintendent who was expected to become superintendent of Phoenix but retired unexpectedly.
It’s a waiting game to see whether the new prison’s leadership will accommodate the music program, which means this recording needs to happen in the next few weeks. Check out the campaign below.
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