As you might imagine, inmates at prisons around Vermont are used to all kinds of noise.
This week, three Vermont high school students are getting a feel for what it's like on the inside.
"It's my first time in prison," said Patrick Maguire, a musician.
"It was scary going through the first one. The doors lock and you're in prison," said Will Kiendl, a musician.
As they check their cellos through security, they bring with them an unfamiliar sound-- actually an ode to it: "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.
"The greatest thing about music is the interpretation and everyone feels a little bit differently, but because everyone interprets it differently that's part of what brings you together," Maguire said.
These three young men are with the ME2 orchestra, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization that emphasizes normalizing mental health issues and a shared love of music. These three received a grant from the Vermont Community Foundation to play in all eight correctional facilities statewide.
"Everybody that's in custody is from our community; they will go back to our community one day. We don't want to segregate them and keep them away from what goes on in the community," said William Lawhorn of the Vt. Corrections Department.
For the privacy of prisoners and to protect victims, the Corrections Department did not allow us to speak with anyone in the audience. While this program is intended to benefit the prison population, these young men say they are experiencing epiphanies as they keep time near those who are serving it.
"This has been eye-opening. I think we were all a little nervous for our first visit yesterday morning, but the audiences have been really receptive and really engaging," Maguire said.
"Probably the biggest realization was that these are humans and they're kept in here and that was a hard thing to deal with every time we left the prison," said Liam John, a musician.
They just hope to offer these men and women one of music's greatest qualities-- the ability to set at least their minds free.
"I think it's definitely means of escape for me, something you can't express in words," John said.
All three plan to keep playing music as they head off to college in the fall. One student is at UVM, another at Berklee and the third at St. Olaf in Minnesota. They head to Springfield and Windsor Wednesday and will wrap up in Rutland and Swanton on Friday.
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