The sound of violins and cellos fills the room with beautiful string music and this coming from a women’s orchestra where many of the players had no previous musical training, and who also happen to be prisoners incarcerated at Hiland Mountain Women’s Correctional Center outside of Anchorage, Alaska. 

Founded in 2004 by the nonprofit organization, Arts on the Edge, the Hiland Mountain Women’s Correctional Center Orchestra began as a unique opportunity to see if women inmates would grow as human beings being able to play music as part of a team in an orchestra.

For two hours a week, the prison walls fade away:  it just feels like music class.

For two hours a week the women inmates meet to learn musical literature, read music, understand rhythm and to work together as a team. Life in prison is very structured and inmates have very little control over their lives, and being part of an orchestra gives these women a sense of self-worth, pride and identity. 

The orchestra performs throughout the community and is known for it’s holiday concert. Revenue is generated by ticket sales and some grant money. In 2010, the Hiland Mountain Women’s Correctional Center Orchestra was awarded the Bright Idea Award and is currently the only prison string orchestra in the United States. 

To watch a video of the women performing, please watch here.

To learn more about becoming a sponsor for the Hiland Mountain Women’s Correctional Center Orchestra, please read more here. 

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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