Aussie singers help female inmates finetune

Two Sydney-based singer-songwriters and their bands visited a NSW women’s prison for the first time to play a live gig with the aim of empowering the inmates and sharing the benefits of music.

Blues musician Karen Lee Andrews and electronica pop artist Thandi Phoenix performed on Monday in front of about 180 inmates and staff at Dillwynia Correctional Centre in Sydney’s north-west for Make Music Day, a global celebration of music.

Ms Andrews began singing at church as a child and said the event showcased the therapeutic joys of music.

“Music can bring a lot of comfort and in some cases it can help heal people who may be going through hard times,” Ms Andrews said.

“Learning to sing and play musical instruments taught me the value of expression because sometimes you don’t always have the words or tools to articulate how you’re feeling.”

The women in custody had the opportunity to ask the pair questions and gain insight into their experiences in the music industry.

Ms Phoenix, who grew up singing, and playing clarinet and guitar, was very moved by the experience and said it was good to share messages of self-love and self-empowerment.

“Music is for my soul – it’s more than a job for me – so I wanted to show that there’s never a wrong time to start something you’re passionate about,” Ms Phoenix said.

“Music connects people and is its own language regardless of where you are from.”

Make Music Day started 39 years ago in France and has been marked in NSW for the past four years. This year’s event aims to increase awareness of women in contemporary music.

Corrective Services NSW principal advisor of women offenders, Kelly-Anne Stewart, said the live-music experience had a positive effect on the inmates’ mood.

“Music helps regulates emotions, so it put the women in a positive mind space, which helps improve their engagement in programs, education and work,” Ms Stewart said.

“Some of the women in custody come in with musical talents – they can sing, rap or play instruments – so we hope the day inspired them.”

Create NSW Executive Director Chris Keely said the event was unique.

“Music has the ability to transform and uplift – it is good for us – and I’m pleased that Karen and Thandi were able to share their musical passion and talents with prison staff and inmates,” Mr Keely said.

The initiative was supported through a partnership between the Department of Communities and Justice and Create NSW.

About Karen

Karen Lee Andrews, 39, has released three albums and one single with more original music set to be released later this year. The Sydney-based singer-songwriter has appeared at Woodford Folk Festival, Queenscliff Music Festival and Bello Winter Music and supported icons including Jimmy Barnes and Gregory Porter.

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