I’m one of those lucky people, in that part of my job is looking at and listening to beautiful things. Also rewarding: seeing other people enjoy the things that I do. When I learned that a group of Seattle Symphony players would be making their first visit to a women’s prison — after already making visits to play for male inmates in Monroe — it seemed like a super opportunity to not only hear a great performance but experience it through the eyes and ears of listeners who are worlds away from the patrons at Benaroya Hall. Seattle Times photographer Erika Schultz was on board, too, and she spent hours shooting still photos and video, capturing the musicians and their passion as well as the reactions from the inmates at Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor. What was just as moving as the reactions of the 100-plus women who sat, rapt, during the concert was the enthusiasm of the symphony players and staff.
“When people are involved in something, they cease being ‘homeless’ or ‘offenders,’ said Kelly Dylla, director of education programs for Seattle Symphony, who went along on that January night. “They become people who love music.”
Steve Bryant, the symphony violinist who spearheaded the quartet’s trip to Gig Harbor, looked out over the audience, sitting on the floor of the center’s stark white gym, and declared that the music he and his colleagues played — achingly beautiful pieces from Schubert, Sibelius and Haydn, among other selections — shouldn’t stay locked up in a concert hall; “it needs to be shared.” The players would come back, he pledged, and promised, “If you don’t have classical music here (in the library), I’ll send some.”