COTTONPORT, La. (KALB) - It was a packed house at a concert in Cottonport Monday night, but it's not quite what you think. It was some of the inmates over at the Raymond Laborde Correctional Center putting on a show with their new-found talent.
It's part of a recent program at the prison where the inmates are learning to play guitar from local music master, John De Chiaro. We met up with the group as they showed off what they've learned.
Michael Gordon was one of the inmates performing on Monday.
"I was born in Alexandria, grew up in Pineville,” said Gordon. “I did wrong, and I ended up here."
Gordon explained that the program kicked off a couple of years back.
"Ms. Sara Simmonds bought us some guitars,” said Gordon. “She got us a professor, Mr. John De Chiaro, he donates his time to come teach us how to play classical guitar."
De Chiaro said he didn’t know what to expect when he starting teaching at the prison, but was pleasantly surprised when he met the group.
"There are many of the guys here who are amazingly talented people,” said De Chiaro. “If they had been younger and had a chance to study guitar, they could've been great classical guitarists."
Gordon said they meet with De Chiaro once a week, and the lessons are teaching them musical skills, as well as life skills.
"So you learn to read music, and you learn to play the guitar,” said Gordon. “And I've watched people turn around from it."
But De Chiaro said he’s the one that’s blessed.
"This is the first time in my teaching life, that when I leave here, people come to me and say ‘thank you Mr. John, you’re helping me so much,’” expressed De Chiaro.
Prison employees said they’ve noticed positive changes from the program as well.
"It's really given them a sense of responsibility,” explained Rene Carmouche, RLCC Senior Chaplain. “And it's giving them the opportunity to have some skills, and hopefully even use it on the outside."
Gordon said it’s programs like this that’s helping him serve his time.
"You know, I didn't what jail was like before I came here,” explained Gordon. “It's different. And some people don't want to learn, and some people can't learn. The ones that are gifted enough to have the time and the rhythm, it's really something. They've done a good thing here. They really have."
De Chiaro currently teaches two classes at the prison, and he’s working on getting a third.