The Gift of Music

The Gift of Music

From Chicken Soup for the College Soul

The Gift of Music

I had been inside the prison called Gander Hill several times already by the time I met Ray in the spring of 1993. My father worked there with a group teaching inmates to improve their communication and speaking skills. I was a senior in college, majoring in speech communications, and eventually I started my own volunteer student group at Gander Hill.

Teaching communication means getting people to tell their stories, but Ray could tell you how much he missed playing his guitar without speaking. Sometimes he moved his hands across the air as if he were playing his favorite blues scale. He always gave me a slight nod when he saw me come into the chapel for the meeting. He loved sharing his guitar stories. Although he had been an inmate at Gander Hill for over a decade, he always had a song in his head, in particular one that he said he had been writing in his mind since his arrival. He looked forward to playing again the way a child counts the days until summer vacation.

When my group formally established itself at Gander Hill, the men were allowed a night of celebration to which they could invite one or two family members. The night of the celebration was just like Christmas for them. They huddled with their loved ones, whomthey had not seen or touched in several months or longer. Since his family lived in Texas, no one came to the celebration as Ray’s guest, but he waited patiently for me to arrive. As he rehearsed his song in his head, I walked into the prison with a guitar.

Ray tuned that guitar as if he were putting his life back into harmony. I have never heard a guitar tuned like that before or since. He looked at me over his shoulder and nodded a thank-you before bringing his song to life on the guitar. I watched Ray’s fingers dance across the strings as if they were himself, running free. And for those few moments, he was.

Brandon Lagana

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