The Core at Rikers: Music Humanities Behind Bars

Thirteen students incarcerated at RNDC (young men facility) successfully completed Music Humanities at Rikers in the Fall of 2023. The course, a part of Columbia’s undergraduate core curriculum, was taught by Dr. Audrey Amsellem and covers musics of the western traditions, from the Medieval era until contemporary Hip Hop. Students received support from Teaching Assistants’ Nicholas Brown, Jessica Schwalb, Noor Shalabi, and Ben Wasserburg. Two live performances took place in the Chapel at RNDC; the first one featured classical and baroque works performed by members of Columbia’s Bach Society (Elaine Yixin Lee, Ruby Finlayson, Sophia Yanney and Adeline Larsen). The second concert featured a Jazz Quartet from Jazz at Lincoln Center, with support from the Eric H. Holder Jr. Initiative for Civil and Political Rights.

This is the third iteration of Music Humanities at Rikers, and the class will also be taught in the Spring of 2024 at GRVC (adult men facility). If you are interested in being a Teaching Assistant or performing for the course, please reach out to Mia Ruyter (mr3460) and Audrey Amsellem (aa3348).

Article by Audrey Amsellem.

Image courtesty of the NYC Department of Correction.