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Providing Music and Mentorships for Incarcerated & At-Risk Individuals




Music on the Inside (MOTI) is dedicated to reducing recidivism, and lowering the social and financial costs of the current criminal justice system through music and mentorships with musicians.


Our teaching artists are professional musicians and MOTI workshops include instrument instruction, singing, songwriting, and practice skills. Students
express themselves through hands-on experience making-music  and the writing and performance of their own songs and blues. Each MOTI workshop series culminates with a live performance featuring students performing their original works with special guest artists.  Many essential life skills are implicit in music making.  As our students learn new skills, expand their capacity to hear and be heard, work collaboratively,  and are able to create a positive community and sense of belonging through music- bands, not gangs- the goal is to create a safe environment both for them and everyone they encounter. 


Rehabilitation is the key! Our classes begun during incarceration and continue during reentry for musically-engaged  students who are given the opportunity to continue their lessons and support through weekly Zoom lessons. As Ms. Bloomgarden said, “We are surprised by the trust, open expression, appreciation and honesty of our students, who often say they forget they’re incarcerated while learning and playing music in our classes.” We are encouraged by the support and participation of many leading artists who share concern for those caught up in our Criminal Justice System.  MOTI Artistic Advisor, Wynton Marsalis, Jonathan Batiste, Wycliffe Gordon, Catherine Russell, Arturo O’Farrill and our  teaching artists, including Antoinette Montague, Richard Miller, Marion Cowings, Russell Hall, Jay Rodriquez and many others,  are working with MOTI to share the music they love with our incarcerated brothers  and sisters. 



My own experience of the humanizing  effect of  jazz music and Louis Armstrong's story of music education when he was incarcerated as a young man, made me ask what we were doing for incarcerated youth today? Believing  that musicians would want to help this population, I launched  Music on the Inside to give incarcerated youth and adults today what Armstrong had: music, mentorship and hope.


I wish everyone could see the instant connection and trust that music creates. When our teaching artists put a guitar in someone’s hands for the first time, without words, many essential life skills are transmitted.  Our students, many of whom served years in prison, tell us they forget they’re in jail when they start to play and sing and write their own songs. We’re all transformed by the experience. 


During reentry, our musically-engaged students continue their lessons with  MOTI's dedicated  teaching artists on Zoom. We believe music can give meaning, joy, courage and a sense of belonging while they face the challenges of finding jobs and housing with  a record. 


Accomplished musicians all over the country want to help this population.  The vision is for the community of musicians to be a force for rehabilitation supporting music education that continues as individuals are released.  If we are able to see these individuals through the lens of their potentials and benefit to society, rather than harm, we will all be the beneficiaries.

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