Jazz Singers go to Oshkosh Correctional Institution

Marvanna Avery-Cash

Sunday May 11 the Lawrence Jazz Singers traveled to the Oshkosh Correctional Institute to perform an afternoon of jazz concerts. The event was organized by Patrice Michaels professor of voice and the Jazz Singers’ coach. In addition to the jazz singers, there were also a few students contributing to the performance from Patrice Michaels’ vocal studio.
According to sophomore ensemble member Sarah Robinson, after the singers made it through extensive security, they were on their way to set up for the performance by 11:30am. The singers performed to the male prisoner audience in a gym that was set up with risers. Among their many memorable selections, one of the hits included “Frim Fram Sauce” by Diana Krall.Robinson, who had never been to a prison before, humbly reflected on some important and ultimately positive feelings that she took from this experience. Robinson said that the group of singers collectively gained “different perspectives” of the individuals within this penitentiary. The male inmates are “good people with personality,” said Robinson.
During the singers’ time there, they were able to interact with their audience and apparently the prisoners really appreciated this. During one of the performances, Robinson enjoyed a humorous incident when the microphone was not completely turned on. After being unable to hear the singers for a moment or so one of the inmates shouted joyously “Turn the microphone up.”
Overall, the jazz singers received a lot of positive feedback from this experience, made clear by the standing ovations they received after each show. Even though not all of the ensemble members were able to attend the performance, they later talked with each other as a group about the experience as a whole.
Robinson shared that she felt this experience was fun for all involved. She stressed that she, as well as other members of the group, did not feel intimidated at all while in the prison.
In the end, the event was a success both because the group enjoyed an afternoon of meeting and interacting with people they would not have otherwise met, and the prisoners seemed very affected by the uplifting performance. Indeed, the inmates’ standing ovations after each performance reflect not only on the talent and effort of the Lawrence students, but also on the appreciation and happiness of the audience.