24. The Kids Are Alright

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

One of my first teaching assignments through the Portland Conservatory was to teach piano and music skills to incarcerated youths at Maine's Long Creek Developmental Center. This was a uniquely challenging and rewarding assignment. After I arrived at the Center and signed in, I was met by the project manager who escorted me through the main building to a classroom where I was locked in with a piano or digital pianos, and some youthful offenders who were interested in learning and playing music. One of the things that made it most challenging was that I had to devise a curriculum that worked for kids who didn't read music, although some were interested in learning. Another challenge was for the students to find practice time during the week between lessons.

We worked on music by Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Ray Charles, Bill Withers and others, even some Beethoven and Pachelbel. I also helped students work on writing their own songs. I remember the first one was a song the student called "Numbness."

If a problem arose I was supposed to use a phone in the room to call for help, but that was never necessary. Sometimes kids who were having a rough week didn't show up for their lessons, or I wasn't able to teach because the Center was on lockdown. But I was never threatened, or had to break up a fight. It soon became obvious that many of these kids were very intelligent and very sensitive. Putting two plus two together I was able to conclude that their problems were the result of early life situations that contained emotional, economic or physical hardship and abuse which gave them a bad start, and little or no reason to believe in the values and institutions of our society.

The program was funded under a grant which eventually ran dry. But it was well worth the time and effort spent getting to know and work with these kids. If helping them to find a constructive outlet to express themselves made a difference in their lives for even a short while, it was well worth the effort. To this day, whenever I see a child in a difficult situation I find myself troubled by wondering whether they will ever have a chance. And when I see an adult in dire straits, I mourn for the lost promise of their youth.

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

50. Into the Great Googly Moogly

As we start 2021 it's a good time to reflect that we humans are messy, always have been, and always will be. It's one of the things that makes our story so interesting, colorful, funny, painful, joyo

49. The Final Absence - Number 8: Humanity

I recently viewed an incredibly informative documentary called The Social Dilemma which was about the need for humane technology. I agree with the film's tech industry producers, that technology is

48. Absence Number 7: Authenticity

Creating curated images of ourselves on social media has become something of a national pastime. In the absence of feeling valued for who we are, many of us are creating altered images of ourselves t

© 2018 Created by Robert Gans with     Contact Robert at