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Geremia Lodi

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Geremia Lodi — On Making Music With Former Inmates


As part of the Music in Incar­cer­a­tion & Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Resource, Geremia Lodi describes his expe­ri­ence work­ing with for­mer inmates in a tran­si­tion com­mu­ni­ty pro­gram, the pos­si­ble ben­e­fits of imple­ment­ing music pro­grams in com­plex sit­u­a­tions such as incar­cer­a­tion and reha­bil­i­ta­tion, and var­i­ous issues relat­ed to self-care.

On his first steps in work­ing with for­mer inmates

Hel­lo, my name is Geremia Lodi. I am a musi­cian and a music edu­ca­tor. My pur­pose in life is to use music to cre­ate a con­nec­tion between peo­ple, while at the same time using this con­nec­tion to cre­ate musi­cal sounds and more per­son­al and inti­mate sounds together. 

My favorite tool to make music is body music — body per­cus­sion, singing, and beat­box­ing in oth­er words. Every­thing that we can do direct­ly with our body and maybe with­out an instru­ment. I like it because it allows every par­tic­i­pant in my work­shop to direct­ly bring the music that is in their body, in their expe­ri­ence. It’s an acces­si­ble approach to music.

My expe­ri­ence with for­mer inmates is quite lim­it­ed and relates to my col­lab­o­ra­tion with com­mu­ni­ties based in Mon­tre­al, espe­cial­ly the ini­tia­tive Open Door. Open Door is a week­ly meet­ing and is open to for­mer inmates, some­times also to cur­rent inmates on a per­mit, to encounter peo­ple of the com­mu­ni­ty and cre­ate a new con­nec­tion to sup­port their inte­gra­tion in society.

When I offered a work­shop for this asso­ci­a­tion, I encoun­tered a group real­ly curi­ous for what I had to offer, and real­ly ready to take the chance to have a moment of fun togeth­er, a moment of interaction. 

The activ­i­ty that I remem­ber them enjoy­ing the most was one of my activ­i­ties called Silent Rhythms. I request each par­tic­i­pant to per­form a silent and repet­i­tive move­ment, but I ask to the oth­er par­tic­i­pants if they, by lis­ten­ing with their eyes, can hear some­thing in their imag­i­na­tion. If imag­i­na­tion can pro­duce a sound. Guid­ed by this move­ment, and most of the time peo­ple can, in fact, pro­duce some­thing that responds to that movement. 

In the sec­ond round of peo­ple per­form­ing a move­ment, the peo­ple oppo­site in the cir­cle to the mover give voice. We sing the move­ment that we hear in our imag­i­na­tion. Peo­ple com­ment­ed that it was real­ly com­fort­ing to hear your move­ment through the voice of some­body else. Hear­ing some­body giv­ing voice to your body, it’s a way of look­ing, it’s a way of

pay­ing atten­tion to the oth­er but brings to the sur­face that web of reci­procity that con­nects every­body in a group, but which is not always evi­dent. It’s not always easy to per­ceive and to feel. I think that that is also a hint of one of the ways that music can be of ben­e­fit to peo­ple that expe­ri­ence pen­i­ten­tiary: to feel this recon­nec­tion to oth­ers in a dif­fer­ent way.

Why and how is music use­ful in the con­text of rehab and incarceration?

So what can a music pro­gram bring to inmates or for­mer inmates?

The first thing is alive­ness. Con­sid­er some­one who is fac­ing a guilt, who is com­ing to terms with a pain that they might have caused, and dif­fi­cult sto­ries. All of these come with a real­ly heavy bur­den to car­ry and upon which to elaborate.

In order to live this process, an indi­vid­ual needs to be able to con­nect back to the part of them­selves that is a mas­ter life. The part that can laugh, that can feel a joy, that can feel plea­sure is fun­da­men­tal to face a demand­ing process like the one that inmates are facing.

So, music can bring alive­ness in the form of pas­sion, of groov­ing, of play­ing. Play­ing in the sense of play­ing an instru­ment, but also hav­ing fun, which is real­ly impor­tant. Sec­ond, a music pro­gram can offer a way to con­nect to one­self and a way to con­nect to oth­ers. As I was say­ing, every per­son sen­tenced to pen­i­ten­tiary has prob­a­bly the need to gain own­er­ship over their own sto­ry, elab­o­rat­ing what hap­pened in the chain of events that brought them there, and at the same time find­ing again their very own sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. Their own voice among the many voic­es that sen­tenced them and to label them to their posi­tion. It’s impor­tant to find full agency by themselves.

Music and sup­port music pro­grams can help to regain a sense of self. A sense of inti­ma­cy, the sense of indi­vid­u­al­i­ty, which is fun­da­men­tal for the process of elab­o­ra­tion of the guilt and of gain­ing own­er­ship. And final­ly, when most for­mer inmates are met, they car­ry a strong pro­tec­tive shell, which is a nat­ur­al response to hos­tile envi­ron­ment, such as the one of the penitentiary.

A music pro­gram with­in a pen­i­ten­tiary, after a process, or at the time of deten­tion can offer the par­tic­i­pants a safe space, a sense of broth­er­hood or sis­ter­hood, where mutu­al recog­ni­tion can hap­pen. Where reci­procity and nor­mal­i­ty, a nor­mal sense of warmth, of human warmth can be installed, which can great­ly sup­port an expe­ri­ence of human­i­ty. That can be heal­ing, in rela­tion to the more insti­tu­tion­al­ized and more cold expe­ri­ence of life as expe­ri­enced in a penitentiary.

Thank you so much.

Self-care before, dur­ing and after the project

Self-care before, dur­ing, and after the project. My own expe­ri­ence about the self-care does­n’t come from work­ing in the pen­i­ten­tiary, but more work­ing in an urban com­mu­ni­ty. Which is a real­ly dif­fer­ent con­text but what is in com­mon with the pen­i­ten­tiary is that as an edu­ca­tor you will find your­self wit­ness­ing some real­ly chal­leng­ing life expe­ri­ences. A sec­ond ele­ment in com­mon is that these are expe­ri­ences to which most peo­ple in soci­ety are not real­ly exposed, which will make you feel a bit more alone at some point. And we’ll talk about it in a minute. 

So the first thing that comes to mind about self-care is to make sure to be paid enough for this con­tract. Which may sound fun­ny but what I think is that when work­ing such a project, you need to make sure to allo­cate enough time for the brief­ing, for elab­o­rat­ing what you’re expe­ri­enc­ing, and to be fair­ly paid so that you can pay your rent with­out the pres­sure of look­ing for that extra con­tract to feel more safe, this will be real­ly impor­tant. It’s not a mat­ter of greed­i­ness, it’s just a mat­ter of giv­ing your­self the time for elab­o­rat­ing. Of course, this is also the sec­ond ele­ment, con­sid­er­ing that you will need time for elaboration. 

 The third ele­ment is con­sid­er­ing the resources in the asso­ci­a­tion or the insti­tu­tion you will be work­ing for in terms of part­ner­ship. Which are the oth­er indi­ca­tors and which is the rela­tion­ship you will be estab­lished with them. Will it be a part­ner­ship also on debrief­ing and elab­o­rat­ing the project togeth­er or not. How much time will you’ll be spend­ing? The oth­er per­son doing this job? These are impor­tant things to know. What is the basis of this col­lab­o­ra­tion, and also what is your role in car­ry­ing out this project. What is expect­ed from you, and how your role fits in the same over­ar­ch­ing struc­ture on which you’re an actor, but not ful­ly in charge of all the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the project. It is real­ly impor­tant to have clar­i­ty around your world. To be able to place your­self in that project. 

 Anoth­er ele­ment is, before the end of the project, to ana­lyze your net­work, your own per­son­al net­work which are the friends that can offer a good lis­ten­ing part­ner, but also qual­i­fied or com­pe­tent lis­ten­ing. As I was say­ing, in my own expe­ri­ence when I was liv­ing in the North, I felt some resis­tance to share cer­tain sto­ries to my friends about what I wit­nessed. It felt some­what dis­re­spect­ful to bring up cer­tain sto­ries with­out offer­ing a com­plete con­text in which that sto­ry took place. And this con­text is real­ly dif­fi­cult to pro­vide sometimes. 

 It is real­ly chal­leng­ing to tell. There are so many things that I still could­n’t name or could­n’t fig­ure out myself to explain the con­text I was liv­ing in, but it was dif­fer­ent if I was talk­ing to some­body who actu­al­ly lived the same expe­ri­ence and had already a sense of what I was talk­ing about. So, it’s real­ly good to ver­i­fy if you already have some­body in your net­work with sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences that could be a good part­ner to debrief, to have a lis­ten­ing ear.

Final­ly, and espe­cial­ly if it’s a long-term project, it’s real­ly good to read inspir­ing expe­ri­ences of oth­er peo­ple that work in a sim­i­lar con­text and who faced sim­i­lar prob­lems. It’s real­ly sooth­ing at times to make your­self be accom­pa­nied in this way, by some­body else that went through the same path. Actu­al­ly, there will be more with what they want­ed to share and some­times also a real­ly good laugh. And you will be fac­ing some real­ly hard life expe­ri­ences and you need, in the week, to recon­nect to your own vital­i­ty, to what­ev­er makes you feel real­ly alive. 

For the inmates, they need to con­nect to what is real­ly alive for them, what is real­ly fun and joy­ful and you will need to do the same for your­self each week. A col­league in the north told me that you need to make sure to be hap­py at least three times a day. It’s fun­ny but I think it’s such a pre­cious sug­ges­tion. To be sure to con­nect to your life ener­gy, to the most vital part of you each week, and if pos­si­ble three times a day. Because that will be so impor­tant for you to be in a in a con­text that is dif­fi­cult, to be full strength. 

Don’t super­charge your­self with the dark part because we real­ly need the live­ly part in order to to be in this con­text. Don’t be afraid to be light and to be funny.

Why to car­ry out a project in pen­i­ten­tiary 

Why car­ry out a project in a pen­i­ten­tiary, or in anoth­er com­plex place? Maybe it sounds like a fun­ny ques­tion to ask but I want­ed to do this tuto­r­i­al and I was inspired by a sen­tence of Genos­tra­da, the founder of ‘Emer­gency Asso­ci­a­tion’ that pro­vid­ed med­ical sup­port in war zones.  He men­tioned that peo­ple want­ed him to say that he was doing what he was doing as a sergeant, in such con­text, because it was a good cause because it was moved by a real­ly good inten­tion. But he was­n’t shy to say that he was doing that sim­ply because he real­ly enjoyed doing it. That’s the reason. 

Then we rephrased it in a dif­fer­ent way, using a sen­tence by Lila Wat­son that real­ly inspired me at the time. Lila Wat­son says, “If you have come to help me, you’re wast­ing time, but if you have come because your lib­er­a­tion is bound to mine, let’s work togeth­er.” I think this sen­tence was real­ly of help for me to place myself, and in a con­text where I faced peo­ple fac­ing real­ly dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions but find­ing a way that’s of strong resilience and a strong per­son­al capacity.

In a way, it helped me to this aware­ness to keep a bal­ance, feel­ing respon­si­ble for myself, respon­si­ble who I was, respon­si­ble for my pro­fes­sion­al­i­ty, but also real­iz­ing that this respon­si­bil­i­ty entailed to not take over respon­si­bil­i­ties of oth­er peo­ple. In fact, doing so would have would have deprived these peo­ple of their own respon­si­bil­i­ty, of their own capacity. 

And always remem­ber­ing the rea­son why I was there, but it was my own rea­son. These allow me to remem­ber that each per­son has his life or her life sto­ry, and bet­ter acknowl­edg­ing our unique­ness is and our dif­fer­ence is the basis for allow­ing this encounter where each can offer the oth­er per­son some­thing impor­tant for our own path as human beings.

Thank you. 


For more info on Geremia Lodi, see their artist pro­file HERE. For a taste of what Geremia Lodi does, see the fol­low­ing projects fea­tured on the PCM Hub:

Silent Rhythms

Body Per­cus­sion For The Family

For more info on Music In Incar­cer­a­tion & Reha­bil­i­ta­tion, see HERE

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