SCDC inmates help write, edit and perform original musical

Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) – The South Carolina Department of Corrections is hosting Decoda, a NYC-based chamber music ensemble, for the fifth consecutive year to create and perform an original 90-minute musical written by inmates in the Better Living Incentive Community (BLIC) housing unit at Lee Correctional Institution on Thursday, April 5 at 1:30 PM.

Decoda has been working at LCI since 2014. This year the men from LCI and Decoda wrote, edited, and refined their show called “Lincoln Portrait,” about the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln, which was Inspired by the hit Broadway musical, “Hamilton: An American Musical.”

From April 1 to April 4, Decoda will return to LCI to work with inmates who are instrumentalists, singers, and spoken word artists. Following the intensive songwriting workshop, LCI participants and Decoda will present a culminating performance of their original program “Lincoln Portrait” for fellow inmates, staff, officers, members of the media, and local and state officials on Thursday (4/5) at 1:30 PM.

“This program gives the inmates something to look forward to each year that is a positive outlet,” said South Carolina Department of Corrections Director, Bryan Stirling. “Decoda has been a tremendous partner, and we hope to continue working together long into the future.”

“Decoda believes that music and the arts have a transformative impact on incarceration. Programs such as ours help to build and nurture the social skills we all need to be better citizens and community members both inside and outside the prison walls. Our program at LCI has been some of the most meaningful and inspired artistic work we have ever been a part of,” stated Claire Bryant, cellist and Director of Decoda’s social justice initiative, Music for Transformation.

“This project lets the participating men investigate history and gives them a creative outlet at the same time. The songs are imaginative and skillful, and demonstrate a nuanced understanding of the historical events. The melodies and lyrics are quite amazing, and the results of their hard work has frankly stunned us,” shared Brad Balliett, bassoonist for Decoda.

South Carolina native, Decoda co-founder and cellist Claire Bryant founded the songwriting program at LCI. Bryant, who is a substitute musician on the Broadway show “Hamilton: An American Musical,” has shared Lin Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary work with the incarcerated musicians. Last year Bryant and her Decoda colleagues challenged the participants to choose a historic figure to study and inspire their original songs. The men chose Abraham Lincoln and have since spent the past year writing, editing, and refining their 90-minute show, which will culminate at a performance in the prison on April 5, 2018.

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