VCUarts Music Professor Uses Music to Tell Incarcerated Individuals’ Stories


“Open Minds: Music That Mends,” written by Music professor Antonio García, will be performed by the Commonwealth Singers at 7:30 pm on Friday April 6 at the W.E. Singleton Center for Performing Arts. The performance is a musical adaptation of “Writing Our Way Out: Memoirs from Jail” (Brandylane Publishers), a 2015 book written by David Coogan, an associate professor in the Department of English, and 10 men who took a writing class led by Coogan while incarcerated at the Richmond City Jail.

Erin Freeman, director of the Commonwealth Singers, director of choral activities for the Department of Music and director of the Richmond Symphony Chorus, has been collaborating on the project and will be directing Friday’s concert.

“We know that the audience will leave this concert with a deeper understanding of lives that are so unlike their own,” Freeman said. “But we also hope that they will be transformed by the fact that we are all very similar in our need to love and be loved, our difficulty in overcoming our past, and our hope for a brighter future. The shared experience of the music of this concert, for performers and audience alike, further highlights the idea that we are more alike than different—and hopefully will help generate continued compassion towards each other.”

Following Friday’s concert, there will be a discussion featuring García, Coogan and Freeman, as well as formerly incarcerated co-authors of “Writing Our Way Out” Dean Turner, Kelvin Belton and Terence Scruggs. The book will be available for purchase.

Read the full article in VCU News.

Image: VCU student Yasmine Scott and the VCU Commonwealth Singers rehearse for Friday’s concert, “Open Minds: Music that Mends.” Photo by Kevin Morley for VCU News.


April 5, 2018