Update September 2021:
Our BFS music programs at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center are improving lives, thanks to the interest and commitment of the residents & staff, and the skill and enthusiasm of BFS teaching artist, John Pranio, who recently said, “Thanks so much for the rich opportunity. We are making a bit of a difference.” Read on for John’s update on one student:
[Name] has been just great. He’s very grateful for what we accomplished, which was mostly how to fit in and play with others. He has opportunities to play with his mother’s boyfriend and others around the “campfire,” and is really excited to get out [in 3 days] and show off some of his brand new skills (…). I taught him how to know what key he’s playing in, and the different types of scales that fit with different types of music. We did some hard jamming. I’d bring my battery powered amp, pass the cord through the fence and plug him in and test him on key, style, and how to fit in. The guys out in the yard would hoot and support him, or grab a metal bucket and play some percussion.
You can support our Reentry Programs in many ways:
- Make a donation (for info, scroll to the bottom of this web page)
- Encourage others to donate (clubs, businesses, religious institutions, organizations, friends)
- Donate instruments (contact [email protected])
- Support restorative approaches by spreading the word and building public and policy support for programs like the MCRRC and Restorative Justice Project
Update December 2020:
Our dance programs at the Reentry Center were well received by all concerned. When we had to stop dancing together in March 2020, John Pranio continued the program, teaching instrument lessons to Reentry residents. This collaboration has been invaluable, as demonstrated by these words from a resident:
THE IMPORTANCE OF MUSIC AND DANCE
I have been at MCRRC for about a year now. When I first arrived here I was invited by a fellow resident to participate in contra dancing. I could not believe how much fun it was. After years of prison and other institutions, it was amazing to see this level of freedom to express, and togetherness from these other men, who have been through the system just like me. Also, it was awesome to see these local residents of the Belfast area come in and share this with us. It is a great way to release tension, stress, and be able to really enjoy yourself in a setting free of judgment.
Now I have been taking guitar lessons for months now. This has been a life changing experience for me. The discovery of musical expression has changed my very being. It is my number one way to cope with stress, and anxiety. It has also played a huge role in my recovery. I have been able to comfort others with this music as well. […] Now, not everybody who comes to the center is going to want to learn to play an instrument, or dance. But… for some, music may be exactly what they need in their journey through recovery and Re-Entry.
Just remember – when words fail, music speaks.
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We’re thrilled that BFS was awarded a grant from the Maine Community Foundation (mainecf.org) to partially support our 2020 programming at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center. (In case you didn’t see the press release in local papers, read on.) The Restorative Justice Project is also a partner in our outreach work at the MCRRC, as we build community by participating in traditional dance and music. ~BFS
Belfast Flying Shoes Expands Program at Reentry Center
BELFAST – Belfast Flying Shoes, the nonprofit arts organization that produces first Friday community & contra dances, was awarded a $5000 grant from the Expansion Arts Fund of the Maine Community Foundation to expand their outreach with residents at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center (MCRRC) in Belfast, adding participatory music-making to a participatory traditional social dance program.
“This grant award validates our work with Reentry Center residents,” says Chrissy Fowler, the board secretary of Belfast Flying Shoes. “Prosocial values of inclusiveness and mutual respect are embedded in our local culture of contra dance and music. These values fit well with the mission of the Reentry Center. But even better, we’re smiling and laughing together.”
The Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center is a residential program designed to give incarcerated men the skills and experience they need to live successfully as citizens and employees after they transition into their home communities.
Robyn Goff, MCRRC Program Manager, explains an important aspect of the Belfast Flying Shoes programming. “People heal when they feel connected. That’s what contra dance does; it connects people.”
Belfast Flying Shoes was founded in 2005 with a mission to bolster the spirited dance community in Midcoast Maine. In addition to first Friday dances and the collaboration with MCRRC, their programs include school residencies, workshops for musicians, and special events. For more information, visit belfastflyingshoes.org
Headquartered in Ellsworth, with additional personnel in Portland, Dover-Foxcroft, and Mars Hill, the Maine Community Foundation works with donors and other partners to improve the quality of life for all Maine people. To learn more about the foundation, visit mainecf.org