2017 Proposal: Keys to Life

Name of Organization
Keys to Life

Julie Varee

Short Project Description (Limit 50 words)

The Hiland Lullaby Project, a partnership with the Carnegie Weill Music Institute, helps women incarcerated at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center create lullabies especially for their children. About to enter its second year, this innovative project engages local musicians, who record the lullabies to create a CD for each child.

The Big Why (Limit 300 words)

Often thought of as simply songs for babies, lullabies can strengthen the bond between a parent and child. Lullabies help create intimate and lasting connections and, according to research, express a determination to care for a child—no matter the circumstances.

Alaska’s Hiland Mountain Correctional Center currently houses 360 female mothers between the ages of 19 and 35. Alaska’s recidivism rate exceeds 60%. Studies show that ensuring inmates with children can retain important aspects of their identities as parents is crucial to rehabilitation and successful reentry to society. Substance abuse and criminal activities of mothers decrease with parental responsibility and connection.

The Hiland Lullaby Project is modeled after the Lullaby Project offered by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. It has been replicated in 24 other communities. The program’s goal in Alaska is to use the arts to strengthen connections between incarcerated mothers and their children.

The project followed these steps:
• Shirley M. Springer Staten met with Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute staff to learn the project’s processes
• Hiland Mountain staff provided a list of 20 potential mothers for the project; 16 were selected.
• Musicians from the Anchorage community were invited to take part in the project; 16 participated.
• Hiland mothers collaborated with the Anchorage musicians at Hiland—drawing on the Carnegie Lullaby workbook which helped the mothers start by writing letters to their children.
• The Anchorage musicians worked with each other to refine each mother’s song before going into a professional studio to record the songs.
• The mothers listened to draft performances of the lullabies and made last changes to the songs.
• A public performance was held with the musicians and inmates and family members, at which a copy of the CD was presented to the mothers for their children.

Budget Summary and Ask

Total annual project costs totaled $35,000—including stipends for local musicians, recording studio time (the largest expense, $10,000), printing, CD production, and program management and professional evaluation.

In addition to securing grants to support the project, Keys to Life took the vital step of beginning to build relationships with individual supporters. A GoFundMe campaign attracted 65 individual donors (including a donor who made a gift through his donor advised fund and declared it “the best thing I’ve ever funded”) and another 30 individuals purchased Lullaby Project prints and note cards created by local artist, Vonnie Gaither.

The Hiland Lullaby asks the Alaska Women’s Giving Circle to consider a $5,000 gift to join with other local individual and foundation supporters and help make possible a second year of the project.