An Anchorage Symphony Features Unlikely Players


by Victoria Taylor

EAGLE RIVER- The average musician begins playing around age 12. The majority of this symphony started playing their strings as adults.

It's a unique symphony, most of the members are inmates. They practice and perform at Hiland Correctional Complex, the only female prison in Alaska.

"when i first started, i didnt even know how to open the case and now i'm playing probably about i'd say junior high to high school level music and i'm continuing to advance," said Tamara Riley, the only original member still playing in the orchestra.

According to the correctional facilities Assistant Superintendent, Gloria Johnson, positive changes begin almost instantly for the women who join the symphony. " They feel like their behavior reflects onto the rest of the orchestra and institution so they hold each other accountable too," she said.

For ten years, inmates at Hiland Mountain Correctional Complex have been kicking off the holiday season with their annual Holiday symphony. The orchestra is funded entirely by private donations and grants.