DJJ Music Class Helps Students Compose A Better Life

A music class at DJJ helps kids compose a better life

Columbia, SC (WLTX) Kids who have broken the law and find themselves in the South Carolinal Department of Juvenile Justice are getting an opportunity to turn their life around through their education on the DJJ campus. One of the classes they choose from is a music class, that teachers and students say is helping them turn their lives around. 

Malik is 17-years-old and is in DJJ because he was part of a fight that occured at his school.  He says before 8th grade he had his sights set on football and hopefully an NFL Career.  He says when he was injured and told he couldn't play any more, that's when he started getting into trouble and hanging out with the wrong crowd.  He tells News 19, "I felt lost in my own state of mind you know, I felt like nobody cares, like my father wasn't there I felt like nobody had loved me so I went out into the streets and I tried to find that love I found that love you know and I tried to impress them and when I try to impress them this is what predicament I end up in."

The pridicament that Malik is talking about is behind the gates at the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. But it's here, behind the razor wire where he's sharpening his skills as a musician. He says, "Basically like, I play by ear.  I play by ear and I listen."

Using his ears has opened up his heart and his emotions come out in a positive way through the music he plays in this class at the Birchwood School on the DJJ campus.  He says, "I mean you can't beat too hard, but you know like. If I have something on my mind or something like that you know, I come in here and I play the drums and I like, If we play like a jammin' song or something like that. I be in the mood too and I start jammin, and it takes a lot of pain and a lot of stress off." In addition to the drums, Malik is also learning the guitar,  and how to compose and produce his own music on the computer.

Music teacher, Ted Henderson, says the stress his students feel might manifest itself in unhealty ways if they weren't here. He tells News 19, "For lack of a better term, lack of access to the arts creates a frustrated creative impulse, that frustrated creative impulse leads to violence, violence against themselves or to others, what we are giving them is an opportunity to be creative in a healthy manner and they can understand how they can use the creative impulse for somethign positive."

17-year-old, Jacob, played the violin before he got to DJJ. He studied for seven years. But despite that discipline, he also got into the wrong crowd, broke the law and was sentenced to about eight months in DJJ.  Here, he's using that talent to create more harmony in his life. Jacob says, "It helps me control my anger. When I get back in here like when I get mad I listen to music I play guitar, I play violin something like that, helps me control my emotions."

About 20 kids each semester learn instruments, composition and production, and for some, that's striking the right cord for their future.

                
Jacob tells News 19, "I've graduated and I never thought I would graduate when I was on the outside. I dropped out of school and stuff like that. When I came back here, I graduated and stuff like that. I got accepted to Midlands Tech so it's a brighter future for me." Jacob says he wants to be a nurse. 

Malik wants to compose a brighter future too. He plans to get his diploma and go to school for music production. He says, "I say that I don't care. But I care about something because I have family that I care about , and I care about my life."

The some of the instruments and other needs for the class are paid for through grants that Mr. Henderson writes.


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