‘Jailhouse Bach’ and women of the Hiland Mountain prison string orchestra

They are in prison for all  kinds of things — murder, kidnap, arson. These inmates accept their actions as bad deeds. But they hold firm to the conviction that they are not bad people. In prison, they pay society back for their crimes, and along the way, prepare to rejoin the world with a different orientation toward life and success. Music is a part of that process.

These are the women in the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center Women’s String Orchestra, begun as a modest rehabilitative program in 2003 by a couple of creative thinkers — Pati Crofut and Janice Weiss, the prison’s director of education at the time.

On December 8, this orchestra, along with supporting Anchorage musicians and guest artist Zuill Bailey, will perform its ninth holiday concert twice, at 12:30 and again at 3:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are on sale now.

Find out the story behind this orchestra, how it has grown, who pays for it,  and the different ways that participants have benefited.  Join host Kathleen McCoy and guests founder Pati Crofut and conductor Gabrielle Whitfiield. The video clip above was prepared by Loren Holmes of Alaska Dispatch, and used with permission.


  • Pati Crofut, founder
  • Gabrielle Whitfield, conductor
  • Dean Marshall, superintendent of Hiland Mountain when the orchestra formed


The Violist: How a prison orchestra changed one woman’s life, Anchorage Press, Nov. 21, 2012
Women’s orchestra prepares for holiday concert
, Alaska Dispatch, Nov. 17, 2012
Arts on the Edge, 501c3 supporting the women’s prison orchestra
Elise Patkotak: Music brings rare beauty to prison, Anchorage Daily News, Nov. 9, 2011
Links below available through Loussac Library:
Pati Crofut Compass: Orchestra teaches cons to play nicely, Anchorage Daily News, Dec. 9, 2006
Jailhouse Bach – Lesson 1 was ‘How to Open your Case,’ Anchorage Daily News, July 25, 2004
Mike Doogan: Strings lead to music behind prison walls, Anchorage Daily News, July 1, 2003


  • Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752 (statewide) during the live broadcast (2:00 – 3:00pm)
  • Send e-mail to hometown@alaskapublic.org before, during or after the live broadcast (e-mails may be read on air)
  • Post your comment or question below (comments may be read on air)

HOST: Kathleen McCoy

LIVE BROADCAST: Wednesday, November 28, 2012, 2:00 – 3:00 pm (Alaska time)

SUBSCRIBE: Get Hometown, Alaska updates automatically— via e-mail, RSS or podcasts


Download Audio

kmccoy (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | About Kathleen

Previous articleThe History of the Governor’s Mansion
Next articleInmate Orchestra Gets Ready for Concert