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Ensemble ACJW: Interactive Performance at Taconic Correctional Facility

Ensemble ACJW pianist Shir Semmel—along with fellows Jacqueline Cordova-Arrington, Jean Laurenz, Dana Kelley, and Andrea Casarrubios—recently took their Interactive Performance project to Taconic Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, New York. Shir was incredibly moved by the transformative power of the music they shared, and reflects on her experience here.

ACJW Taconic Correctional Facility
From left to right: Shir Semmel, Jacqueline Cordova-Arrington, Jean Laurenz, Dana Kelley, and Andrea Casarrubios.

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As a member of Ensemble ACJW, I was fortunate to perform at Taconic Correctional Facility—a medium-security women’s prison—with my dear friends Jackie, Jean, Dana, and Andrea. Walking into the prison, and going through its strict security, we really couldn’t expect the powerful experience that was about to happen. The incarcerated women welcomed us—and our music—with overwhelming openness, appreciation, and kindness. Within the intimidating walls of the prison, it seemed like music helped break down other barriers. Our shared love of music brought us all together as we were playing, talking, connecting, laughing, and crying. It inspired the inmates to express themselves, share their feelings, and let the music carry their minds—even for just a few seconds—outside those walls. Never had I felt the power of music over people’s lives as I did that day at Taconic, and I will always carry this extraordinary day with me.

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—Shir Semmel, Ensemble ACJW

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