Guitar Doors Rehabilitating Prisoners through MusicOur November Check in Charity was a resounding success, with friends of the Seacoast Science Center heartily joining the effort to meet the $500 goal.

At this time of reflection we’d like to say thanks for all of the supporters of Check in for Charity – nearly 2,000 of you, many who “Check In” every month – who have made this campaign a huge success. We hope to keep this giving going into the New Year and have been constantly impressed both by the great work being done in our communities, as well as the great need for support.

For December, our Check In recipient is Guitar Doors, an organization which helps incarcerated youths and adults express themselves and work to a common goal through music. Their programs have reached over 100 prison inmates since 2009, an effort which started with a donated afternoon by founder Jim Svendsen and has developed into 4 distinct music programs lead at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland and the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

Guitar Doors

Guitar Doors Independence Concert
Guitar Doors organized the first concert in 10 years at the Maine Correctional Center this past July 4th, the first concert ever to feature prison inmates in the band. Photo by Kristen Stevens.

Guitar Doors uses the transformational power of music to effect change in the lives of prison inmates.

Through small-group, student-centered instruction, Guitar Doors stimulates those incarcerated to think and express themselves in new ways, and teaches the rewards of working together as a community towards a common goal.

Music can improve self-expression, reduce stress, and can help prisoners with issues of trust, aggression, anger and relationships. Studies have shown that participation in music programs increase their ability to converse with others, reduce their social isolation, and increase their interest in external events. It has also been shown to significantly increase feelings of acceptance, joy and happiness, and significantly decrease feelings of guilt, regret, blame, and fear/distrust.

Founder Jim Svendsen writes of the genesis of Guitar Doors:

[While studying Goddard College in Vermont] I concentrated on the social and rehabilitative aspects of music, and the costs to society for the commercialization of what had, for millennia, belonged to the people. Music has extraordinary effects on our minds and is rooted deep in our DNA. It has connected people with each other and with our ancestors for untold generations … I decided to try and take music to the prisoners.

After several phone calls and emails to the wrong people, I connected with the volunteer coordinator at Maine Correctional Center in Windham, and told her that I wanted to teach beginner guitar to prisoners on Fridays. As luck would have it, she had 6 brand-new Epiphone acoustic guitars that had been sitting in her office for about a month, but had no one to teach the class. The guitars had been donated to the prison by Jail Guitar Doors (our namesake), an organization in the UK founded by Billy Bragg. JGD donates instruments to prison music programs throughout the UK, and this was their first donation in the US.”

Guitar Doors unique rehabilitative work has been featured in the Portland Press Herald and on WPXT TV. Our own Josh Rollson also volunteers to teach some chords!

Check in Now!

Just enter your name and email (optional) below to earn $1 towards the Guitar Doors’ work rehabilitating inmates through music.

Fine print: Each person can “Check in” once each month using the widget you can find on our blog, website, and Facebook page. In addition we count all new “Likes” to our Facebook page as Check-ins so be sure to share this effort with your friends!