This week on Frontiers, we bring back a popular show from this fall, which features the Lullaby Project — an effort to help women at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center build a bond with their children through music.

The formula is simple. Bring two groups of women together — inmates and local musicians. Together, they composed lullabies for the inmates’ children.

We followed the entire process, which began in June, when the musicians met for the first time to get acquainted with each other — and to map out a plan to work with women whose life histories were very different from their own. In the months that followed, lullabies were written, recorded and performed for the public at Hiland.

Future plans for the Lullaby Project

Our first show on the Lullaby Project aired before the final concert, which we recorded. We plan to bring it to you in a second program on Sunday, Dec. 25.

Part 2 of the Lullaby Project will also repeat on New Year’s Day.

The show seems in keeping with the spirit of the holidays. If Part 1 of the Lullaby Project moved you to tears, be prepared to experience more powerful emotions in Part 2.

Also, an online version of the full hour-and-a-half concert is in the works will be posted in December.

The healing power of music

Scientists have documented the healing powers of music on babies in neonatal care, as well as patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Lullaby Project also attempts to harness the untapped potential of music.

The Carnegie Foundation is a partner in the project. It has launched similar programs across the country — mainly in shelters and at only one other prison, Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York.

The Alaska program is run by the Keys to Life Foundation. Given the smaller scale of Hiland Mountain, and the potential to apply the lessons from Hiland to prisons of similar size, prison reform experts plan to keep a close eye on the long-term benefits of Alaska’s Lullaby Project.

Some of the highlights of the Sept. 11 program:

    • As musicians meet to prepare for their role in the Lullaby Project, they struggle with some basic questions.
    • An emotional first meeting between the musicians and the women at Hiland Mountain.
    • Musicians collaborate with inmates to write lullabies, and a few weeks later the musicians work together to record them in the studio.
    • Our guests are Shirley Mae Springer Staten, a longtime community activist, and Gloria Johnson, superintendant at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center.

When the musicians began their preparations for the project, they were given one ground rule — that they were not to ask the inmates about their crimes — that their main focus was to reconnect the mothers to their children through music. Another important instruction: to remember the children were not to blame for their mother’s actions.

But the musicians didn’t have to ask. Many of the mothers openly shared their pain over how their crimes have affected their families, friends and loved ones.

We thank the inmates for sharing their stories and for allowing us to follow them through a process in which they were very vulnerable.

As you watch, we hope you will realize that the Lullaby Project is about much more than singing lullabies, but about messages of love that could have a lasting healing impact.