The inmates who took to the stage at a concert on Saturday clearly weren’t used to applause, which broke out often, along with tears that flowed from the audience and inmates alike.

Several hundred people filled the gym at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River to hear lullabies inmates wrote for their children. The performance was part of the Lullaby Project, a Carnegie Institute program that has spread nationwide.

Alaska is the second state to have the prison-based program, which launched in July and paired 15 inmates with 15 musicians, who put their words to song.

In September, they were recorded on a CD, to be given to the inmates’ children. The rest will be sold to raise money for the next Lullaby Project.

Saturday’s concert was for the general public, and those who attended were impressed.

“You can hear the love of a mother, whether they’re incarcerated or not, in the songs,” said Neva Reece. “And it’s just so profound.”IMG_2657

Danny Templeton said he came only because his wife wanted him to.

“But my heart and my mind changed,” Templeton said. “I normally don’t cry easily, but some of that music kind of made me puddle up a bit.”

Early in the process, inmates had to write letters to the children, the starting point for their lullabies.

Kimora Ah San said it helped her realize how much her kids need her. She enrolled in a substance abuse program to get out of prison sooner, so she could be with them.

“This is the first time that I ever did anything like this for my kids,” Ah San said. “The Lullaby Project helped me realize that, as I was writing the song, that I was hating so much, that I forgot what love was.”

The musicians said the project was transformational for them as well.

Hilary Morgan, an Anchorage singer-song writer, said most concerts showcase the performers. But this one was meant to be a gift to the children.

“Each song was its own little gift,” Morgan said. “The most poignant moment was when the mothers came up with their kids on the stage. There’s so much emotion on the stage. For those kids to feel that amount of love — that’s a lot of love in one room.”

The audience showed their love too and bought up every available CD. More will be produced and can be ordered online.

Editor’s Note: KTVA’s public affairs show, Frontiers, is producing a second program this fall featuring the Lullaby Project. To see the first, click here.