Thursday, October 30, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

CSP Solano inmates make music for rehabilitation

CDCR band01

Louis Watson, left, and Khaliyfah Taylor make sure they’re in tune. (Eric Owens/California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

By
From page A1 | July 25, 2014 |

VACAVILLE — Rising above the loud buzzing of the sally port locking and unlocking, the soulful strains of “Just My Imagination” float through the halls of the California State Prison Solano.

Upon entering, the bluesy rhythm of the Temptations song fills the room, and the small group of people assembled to listen can’t help but nod their heads in time and sing along. The pitch is perfect, the timing is just right and, for a moment, it’s easy to imagine the venue as a sold-out concert hall instead of the brightly painted visiting room of the prison.

Meet the musicians of Music Innovators, a self-help group formed by inmates who have two things in common: a love for playing music and a desire to rehabilitate themselves.

“Part of rehabilitation is learning how to function like you would on the outside,” said Tonya Parker-Mashburn, community resources manager for the prison.

Music Innovators is more than a bunch of musicians getting together for a jam session. Its 75 members are tightly organized, with practices scheduled throughout the week, equipment tuned and maintained and musicians held accountable for attending practice and helping the group function.

Level II Associate Warden Kim Young said Music Innovators is an example of the self-help programs she supports at the prison. Not only does the program give inmates the opportunity to express themselves and display their talents, it also provides an array of life skills that will be invaluable when they return to their communities.

“That’s what drives me: To give people the opportunity to change their lives,” Young said.

The program members have formed more than a dozen bands ranging in genres as diverse as the musicians themselves: Blues, rock, country, even heavy metal are played. Some of the inmates play different instruments in several bands.

Khaliyfah Taylor, who grew up playing music, never thought he’d find himself in a metal band, but here he is, singing and playing drums, keyboard and guitar as needed. The several groups he belongs to include Di-Ma-Ryp, which is “pyramid” spelled backward, a nod to his Egyptian upbringing.

During a recent rehearsal, Taylor belted out the lyrics to his original song “Madiba,” a tribute to the late Nelson Mandela.

“It’s kind of like therapy for me,” said Louis Watson, bass player for the band Magic Carpet. “It keeps your mind free, directed, focused. The music program is one of the primary things that I need.”

Watson is no stranger to the stage; a bass player since age 5, he once performed with Little Richard and with soul/R&B stars Tony! Toni! Toné! He credits the music program with his rehabilitation in terms of his mind and his body. Choices made in the past resulted in gunshot wounds to his hand – he didn’t think he’d ever play again. The Music Innovators came calling in 1998, and he slowly began his recovery.

“I’ve reformed my life, and I want to give back, and continue to give back,” Watson said. He pointed out that rehearsing and performing together gives inmates the skills needed to work well with others under stressful situations.

Troy Johnson, another bass player and background vocalist for Soul Theory, also stopped playing for a time, but picked his instrument back up thanks to the program.

“It’s cathartic,” he said. “No matter what type of problems you’re going through, everything just falls away.”

The program’s therapeutic value, coupled with the lessons in patience, responsibility and accountability, resulted in a major life change for Frederick Varner, who was granted parole and returned home in June. During his parole hearing, he said, he spoke at length about how the program changed his life for the better.

“The Music Innovators have been very instrumental as a morale developer and maintainer,” he said. “It’s really fulfilling.”

The inmate coordinator for the program is Antonio Morris, who coordinates practices and performances for institution events such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day visiting and the twice-monthly Friday Night Lights events that feature motivational speakers and the band. Those “gigs” teach the musicians the importance of following through on commitments.

“If you don’t take a personal interest in yourself,” he said, “you can’t expect anyone else to.”

The instruments are donated by community members and local musicians, and the musicians take great pride in repairing and maintaining their equipment. In addition to performances and lengthy rehearsals – eight hours every Saturday – several inmate musicians volunteer to give music lessons to other inmates.

Drummer Jesus Gonzalez speaks with a thick Cuban accent, but the language of music is universal, as proven by his successful and well-attended percussion classes.

“I love to do it, because of how it feels to be able to help other people,” he said. “God gave me the gift, and it makes me happy to share it.”

Lamont Williams, the voice behind “Just My Imagination” at the beginning of rehearsal, said at first that he sings simply “to give people something they like to hear.” But upon further reflection, he said that there’s something much deeper that comes with being part of the program.

“There’s a good feeling in it – we love doing it,” he said. “You have to connect with your soul when you play music.”

Krissi Khokhobashvili is a public relations officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Krissi Khokhobashvili

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • truth'nJuly 25, 2014 - 6:44 am

    Here's a unique idea... give free music lessons to those who abide by the law.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • What's this aboutJuly 25, 2014 - 8:52 am

    Such a moving article that will help these good men rehabilitate. Just something else that has me thinking very hard about our system and waste of resources. Why do these convicts get to enjoy this privelage. Save the BS about helping them adjust to society and learning to blend with society. There grown men if they haven't figured it out by now they never will. TRUTH!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
Home: Some things never change

By Mayrene Bates | From Page: A2

Council continues hearing on liquor sales request

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

 
Victim of Tuesday traffic incident dies

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

Holiday boutique set for weekend

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Live Your Dream award applications due Nov. 15

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
 
Transportation Info Depot opens Monday in Suisun

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Salvation Army set to host Kroc Fest

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
 
Suisun City police log: Oct. 28, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A5

Deadline looms for vote-by-mail ballots

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
Fairfield police log: Oct. 28, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A5

 
.

US / World

California orders risk-based Ebola quarantine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Maine can’t hold Ebola nurse without judge’s order

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Pentagon orders 21-day Ebola quarantine for troops

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
US health care unprepared for Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Suge Knight, Katt Williams charged with robbery

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Military jet crashes in California, killing pilot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Army blows up houses, Egyptians evacuate near Gaza

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Peshmerga troops cheered by fellow Kurds in Turkey

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

New York, New Jersey look back 2 years after Sandy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Russian rocket engines suspected in launch blast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Al-Qaida: IS should rejoin group and fight West

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Bill Clinton says voting is cure for polarization

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Lava 100 feet from Hawaii home, nearing main road

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Police: Man decapitates mother, is killed by train

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

.

Opinion

We’ve got to stop meeting like this

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A7

 
Editorial Cartoons: Oct. 30, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Davenport, Pal, Spering best choices for vote

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7

 
Measure A helps students

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7

Jane Day for council: She cares

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7

 
Do you trust Spering?

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7

Support for Spering, Moy

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7

 
Measure A a simple choice

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7

Mraz is desperate

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7

 
Vote for Moy; Vote for Fairfield

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Time for something new: Integrity

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Supports Timm for Fairfield council

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Measure A a wise investment

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Spering record not set straight

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
In support of Brian Thiemer

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Debate was eye-opening

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Vote for Catherine Moy

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Tonnesen right choice for City Council

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Vote for Tonnesen

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Learn to say no

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Support for Bertani

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Proposition 47 fails to advance state

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Mraz not best officer for council post

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Moy is the leader we need

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Today in History: Oct. 30, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Oct. 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Oct. 30, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A10

 
My sister won’t talk to any of us, I’m worried about my nephew

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A10

.

Entertainment

‘House of Cards’ actress Norment dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Orson Welles’ last film may finally be released

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Taylor Swift talks books and music with kids

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Sports

Royals’ dream season falls short in World Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Bumgarner, Giants beat KC to win World Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Bumgarner, Giants beat KC 3-2 in Series Game 7

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Selig’s imprint seen in Game 7 of World Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Giants fans revel in victory

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Giants ace Bumgarner wins World Series MVP

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Warriors whip Kings 95-77 in season opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jose Canseco resting at home after shooting hand

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sacramento breaks ground on new Kings arena

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

It’s Thursday Night Lights for SCAC

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B2

 
49ers rookie center Marcus Martin to make NFL debut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Stanford men looking to build on NCAA tournament run

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Carr prepares for tough test vs. Seahawks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Vanden’s McDaniel repeats as SCAC singles champion

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B3

 
.

Business

Gov’t pushes air bag maker on replacement parts

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Fed ends bond buying and cites brighter job market

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

.

Obituaries

Hardie Lee Doshier

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Howard Lenowsky

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Robert Louis Wright

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10