Kristian Kohler sat alone in the bathroom of a youth correctional facility in Bordentown with fearful tears in his eyes. Wondering what he had got himself into, he recalled the past ten minutes. He had been searched, stripped of his pencils, spiral notebooks and cell phone, and led through three levels of metal doors by a prison guard. He had never expected that his college career would take him behind prison walls, but here he stood trying to gather enough courage to teach a music lesson to a room full of inmates.
It all began two years ago when Music Education and Sacred Music major Kristian Kohler ’13 was approached by classmate and fellow Music Education major Miranda Rowland ’13 and asked if he would be interested in participating in a worthwhile community program that she referred to as “Prison Choir.” After gathering a few more details and verifying that it fit into his schedule, Kohler signed himself up to be one of the two music educators who would travel to the correctional facility on Wednesday nights at 7:30.
He studied the game plan that Rowland developed when the program began. Each lesson would begin with a community-building prayer or discussion, followed by some type of warm-up that involved either body percussion or chairs, since they weren’t permitted to use instruments. They would then rehearse a few pieces.
“The goal wasn’t to rehearse for a performance, so it was really just for the group itself to learn and grow as individuals and as community members,” said Kohler.
However, all of the studying in the world could not have prepared him for that first night.