Wolf, Dennie Palmer and Holochwost, Steven. (2015). Our Voices Count: The Potential Impact of Strength-Based Music Programs in Juvenile Justice Settings.
Author Affiliations: WolfBrown
Artforms: Choir, music, songwriting
Program: Our Voices Count
Program Description: Juvenile offenders in detention facilities participated in a 12-session program spanning two weeks during which they participate in a choir performing a traditional repertoire while also writing their own songs and lyrics. Our Voices Count was a collaborative project between Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections program and the New York City Administration for Children’s Services.
Program (Study) Location: Two secure juvenile detention facilities in New York City
Participant Type: Male and female youth offenders, average age 15 years Sample Size: 54
Study Published: Organizational publication, 2015
Data Type: Mixed-methods design using pre- and post-residency assessment. Evaluation Focus: Whether ensemble-based music could create a more positive environment inside secure detention facilities as well as stronger social relations, more constructive behavior and a changed sense of self among participants.
Summary of Impact:
● At both facilities, reduction in participants’ externalizing, or acting-out behaviors following participation in program.
● Across facilities 75% of participants completed the program, earning a half-course credit toward high-school graduation from their on-site or future New York City high school.
● Nearly two thirds of young people across both facilities reported spending time between sessions working on music in their free time, thus “acting as agents to set and work towards a longer-term goal.”
● More than two thirds of residents reported working with other offenders, professional artists, and facility staff, during rehearsal and during free-time activities.
● Nearly half of participants reported changes in multiple areas of personal well-being including positive emotional state, sense of achievement, self-esteem and self-confidence.
● Participants at one facility had statistically higher rates of earning high-school credit, built stronger social networks, were more likely to complete the program and exhibited lower levels of disengaged or disruptive behaviors than at the other facility.
● The facility where youth demonstrated these gains had steadily reduced use of involuntary room confinements and physical restraints, versus the second facility.
KEYWORDS: choir, confidence, juvenile, music, sense of self, social skills, voice, youth