AMP artists A. Fuentes (singing) and C. Sanders perform.

By Lt. Katherine Cruz, AA/PIO
Pleasant Valley State Prison

Musically inclined inmates are turning their talents to rehabilitative efforts at Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP).

Arts Music Program (AMP) has recently been busy entertaining inmates, staff and guests at PVSP. This group of musicians recently made an appearance at PVSP’s Adult School Graduation where they performed original scores for the audience as well as some covers.

On June 29, AMP held a concert for visitors and staff to show off all their hard work and practice. Each musician wrote and performed almost every piece played that day. One musician, A. Fuentes, was able to perform a song that started off as a writing assignment: to write a song from his mother’s perspective to him.

“It took me on quite a journey. Viewing myself through my mother’s eyes was a healing experience.  It serves as a reminder to all of us that we are nothing without a mother’s love and we are everything with it,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes’ mother was in the audience that day, enabling him to serenade her.

Another musician, B. Bohart, wrote and performed three pieces; one titled “Black Swan.”

“Swans have the ability to fly; rise above; transcend the circumstances or situation. A black swan has beauty/greatness all its life and does not realize it possesses that beauty/greatness,” he said.

AMP’s positive approach had such a powerful impact that it fueled the mission to bring a concert into realization. AMP’s rehabilitative philosophy is “From Pen & Paper to the Stage.” AMP’s goals are to help an artist mature and grow, help men find a career path in the arts and give inmates who are serving a life sentence a chance to live a life with art.

AMP’s roots stem back to 2013 from a music therapy group that was a venue for self-expression through music and lyrics. In 2015, “Away with Words” Slam poetry group was created and it followed “Louder than a Bomb” poetry style. The video series showcased a group of men with amazing musical talent and served as a catalyst for AMP.  Under the guidance of the program facilitator and several members of the music therapy group, AMP was born.

In 2014, AMP collaborated with the UNITY Program to bring guest speakers in to educate and inspire men. In 2017, thanks to Bonnie Farkas, PVSP Community Resource Manager (CRM),  AMP has become an Inmate Leisure Time Activity Group (ILTAG) and now offers a Music Program, Sketch Comedy/Improv Acting, and a Slam Poetry/Art class on most yards.

AMP is facilitated by Trino Andrade, PVSP’s resident Television Specialist and AMP Director/Producer.

AMP artists C. Sanders and B. Bohart (seated) perform an original piece.