Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center Arts Project

6 Nov

Alex Moroz is the founder and director of the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center Arts Project in Illinois. Please contact Alex at amoroz08@gmail.com if you want to learn more, and visit the program website at www.ccjdcartsproject.weebly.com.

Hello prison arts educators!  I am the founder and director of the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center Arts Project, and I’d like to share our new program with you.  Currently, we teach music to incarcerated youth, though we are in the process of expanding to include other arts disciplines, as well.  We are a unique group because all of our teachers are students at the University of Illinois, and we attract other students, professors, and community organizations to help us create meaningful experiences for our students.

Our organization began in early September after I taught music to incarcerated men through my first program at the Decatur Adult Transition Center in Decatur, IL.  My experiences with at the Decatur ATC inspired me to create a new program to reach out to incarcerated youth and give other college students the opportunity to teach in a correctional facility.  Since then, our program has been a huge success with a 100% participation rate, and I’m excited to see where it will take us.

Our Model

We structure our classes similar to a Catholic Mass.  Masses are made of two parts: the Ordinary and the Proper.  The content of the Ordinary is consistent in each mass, and the content of the Proper changes, depending on the seasons.  In our music classes, our “Ordinary” consists of learning, performing, and analyzing popular songs on instruments and voices with a preconceived plan, and our “Proper” consists of various composition activities in which our main plan is to see where our minds can take us.  By designing our classes this way, we a) give our new students a structured environment to facilitate participation and learning b) give our returning students elements of both consistency and surprise, and c) foster creativity and independent thought by allowing our students to steer our class’s direction during discussions and composition activities.

 Our Latest Project

In this post, I’d like to share our latest composition project.  Over two weeks, our students wrote a rap in collaboration with our teachers and CCJDC faculty members.  To do so, our students selected a topic and a mood to communicate, and then they shared their ideas aloud while we offered suggestions for improvement.  They chose to write about JDC, but to “make it funny” and “keep it light.”  After we wrote a chorus, verses, and a contrasting section, our students designed the overall form of the rap, which they learned how to do through our “Ordinary” activities of analyzing song forms.

These are the lyrics that they came up with in the form that they chose (ABABCBAC):

 JDC

CCJDC Arts Project

 JDC is not the place to be

Just stay at home, and you can watch TV

Don’t commit the crime, or you’ll serve the time

And if you eat the goose, it’ll taste like slime.

At JDC you get your trays in your room

During hygiene, you sweep your room with the broom

They come knockin’ on your door, talking ‘bout breakfast

When you open your bag, it look real hectic

And that’s what happens in the morning at JDC.

JDC is not the place to be

Just stay at home, and you can watch TV

Don’t commit the crime, or you’ll serve the time

And if you eat the goose, it’ll taste like slime.

We always play knockout and volleyball

Don’t forget about shootout, that’s the best of them all

When we start the stretches, we be doin’ up-downs

Runnin’ them laps, lookin’ like clowns.

JDC, JDC, Hey!

JDC, JDC, Hey!

JDC, JDC, Hey!

JDC, JDC, Hey!

Participate, cooperate, make your sure room look straight

Get more tokens, get more food on your plate

Do the best you can, so when you go to court

You got a better chance to get a good report.

JDC is not the place to be

Just stay at home, and you can watch TV

Don’t commit the crime, or you’ll serve the time

And if you eat the goose, it’ll taste like slime.

JDC, JDC, Hey!

JDC, JDC, Hey!

JDC, JDC, Hey!

JDC, JDC, Hey!

CCJDC Arts Project teacher Corinne Jones and I took the lyrics home, recorded it on Garage Band, put it on YouTube, and played it for our students on the faculty computers the following week.  Our students thought that our recording was the coolest thing ever, and it gave them a sense of accomplishment—especially because in this day and age, musical works are only official when they’re posted on YouTube (much like how relationships are only official when Facebook says so).

I should mention that “if you eat the goose, it’ll taste like slime” refers to one of their not so delicious meals.  At least it gave them something to write and laugh about.

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