Healing in Harmony: Local choir starts music program at Pickaway prison

Credit: WBNS-TV

PICKAWAY COUNTY - The Harmony Project is celebrating 10 years of music and service in 2019.

The community choir, which dedicates itself to giving back, began with 100 members.

Now the Harmony Project has more than 500 voices and facilitates music programs in schools and prisons across Central Ohio.

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In celebrating a decade of existence, the choir is now expanding to a men’s state prison.

“Twelve years ago, they asked me to go into a men's prison first,” said David Brown, founder and creative director for the Harmony Project. “I said no. I was afraid. I didn't think I would fit in.”

So, Brown decided to partner with the Ohio Reformatory for Women instead. The program’s melodious success with female inmates paved the way for a new partnership with the Pickaway Correctional Institution which is a state prison for male offenders.

“This is a location. That's all it is,” Brown explained. “It's not about diminishing or minimizing the crimes. It's about uplifting and celebrating the human.”

Once a week, Brown visits the prison with Harmony Project musicians and volunteers to teach the men music. The in-prison choir is made up of 30 inmates. Brown says he knew the program would take dedication and an open mind on both ends.

“When I walked into the room, all the white guys were sitting on one side and all the black guys were sitting on another side,” Brown said. “And, I said ‘okay — maybe that's going to take a while to break down.”

Instead, Brown says the men began harmonizing as one voice and created a bond with one another despite age, crime or past experience.

“As you are sitting there singing, none of that matters,” said Paul Teets, who has been incarcerated for 22 years. “We're all just one people. We're one person. One goal. The way it forms a bond — it's unspeakable, know what I mean?”

Teets said he's been inspired by Brown, the musicians and their message.

“Before the choir, I used to think about the community as a like a dream,” Teets said. “To see the community come in and mingle with us like that… it's unheard of.”

The Harmony Project will host its 20th concert on Thursday, December 12th at Nationwide Arena. One of the Pickaway inmates will get the opportunity to sing a solo live at the concert.