The Athens News ran a great article on my residency at Hocking Valley Community Residential Center. Following is a gallery of photos from A-News photographer Ed Venrick and then the complete text of the article.
Teacher offers youth offenders a 6-string rehab program
Reprinted from The Athens News July 24, 2008
July 24, 2008
Editor’s note: The full names of the young offenders in this article are not being used out of regard for their privacy.
You walk through a set of double glass doors adorned with announcements printed on yellow cardboard. You continue past a poster with an assortment of pictures, and past a ceramic mural that stretches from the ceiling to the floor. While walking around a circular hallway, you hear snippets of conversation, doors closing and the sound of music.
“I think some of the other staff must be like, ‘Oh God,’ because it gets kind of noisy up there,” Darrell Gladish said with a smile. “They’re all into it.”
This isn’t a floor in Glidden Hall, the music building at Ohio University. Nor is this a private music conservatory. It’s actually the Hocking Valley Community Residential Center, a juvenile correctional facility in Nelsonville.
“I’m not trying to get them to be great guitar players; I want to get them used to the guitar,” says local guitarist John Horne.
For the next several weeks, Horne is the Artist in Residence at the Residential Center, a program sponsored by the Ohio Arts Council. Horne will meet daily with 22 “adjudicated” minors.
Their crimes would be considered felonies if the minor were older than 18. Substance abuse and theft can fall into this category. The boys at the center range in age from 12 to 18 years old, says Gladish, a youth specialist at the facility.
The facility’s mission is to try to rehabilitate the adolescent boys through positive means, instead of locking them up in a cell, explains Gladish. The program strives to rehabilitate the boys, usually in a four- to six-month period, so they can return as members of their community.
This can be accomplished through numerous programs offered at the correctional facility, Gladish says, including the residency programs. The residency programs, such as the one Horne is teaching, are provided to expose the minors to different activities and teach them new skill sets. Before this program, most of the boys had never held a guitar before, Gladish says.
Horne, who graduated from Duquesne University in Pennsylvania with a degree in music performance, notes that the boys come from various backgrounds. “I wanted this to be a creative experience,” he says.
In addition to learning how to hold a guitar, Horne’s students are also learning how to write lyrics and put them to music. In the first week alone, each student was responsible for composing four measures of music.
With Horne’s help, the tunes were strung together and had lyrics set to them. Horne does acknowledge that everyone has different tastes in music, but that just makes the collaborative pieces interesting.
Two program attendees, John and Adam, say they enjoy Horne’s guitar sessions because Horne doesn’t lecture too much or get angry if they miss a chord. Both agree that the laid-back atmosphere is helping them learn how to play the guitar.
John, a 17 year-old former football player, also played the snare drum in the marching band.
Though he has experience with percussion instruments, he says that he never really knew how to play the guitar — at most he would strum one string at a time. The Jimi Hendrix fan says that he now knows much more than one string and will probably continue playing after Horne’s residency is over.
Adam, a 16-year-old sports fan, says that before starting to learn guitar from Horne, he could play half of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” Now, after less than two weeks with Horne, Adam can finish the Southern-rock standard and also learned how to play Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.” Adam admits that he is building up his fingers and can now play for more than an hour at a time.
Not only is Horne teaching his students how to play music, he is also teaching them about different music genres. Earlier this month, the boys attended a concert by The Jazztet, Horne’s jazz ensemble, on the College Green at Ohio University.
John admits that he had never listened to an entire jazz song before The Jazztet concert, but he listened to the entire show. Adam adds that it’s not his first choice in music, but the group, well, “they’ve got skill.”
Gladish, also a guitar enthusiast, says that before Horne’s residency he would sometimes play for the boys during their down time. Now that they know how to play, he says he’s always being asked to lend out one of the facility’s eight guitars. “On Saturdays, I may have some boys playing for two or three hours,” says Gladish. “You couldn’t have a more positive way to spend your time.”
John Horne will be at the Hocking Valley Community Residential Center through Aug. 3.