LOUISIANA STATE PENITENTIARY, DARROW LOUISIANA– Simply put, there is talent inside of our prisons. That becomes most apparent when over twelve thousand festival goers attend Angola’s Bi-annual prison rodeo.
These are the two golden times of the year, when the sound of music permeates the maximum secured walls, and you get to hear the humanity in the voices of inmates who are serving time.
Angola’s Guts and Glory Traveling Band has existed with different incarnations of members since the prison was opened to the public in the 60’s.
Aj Freeman, plays lead guitar and says, “it calms my nerves down. Music soothes the savage beast.”
“It just keeps me out of trouble and helps me stay focused,” says keyboardist, Jerrol Louis.
John Dykstra is the bands percussionist and believes in the all-healing power of music saying, “music is a spiritual operation from the throne room of God and I believe it affects everybody’s spirit in some type of way.”
The stadium that houses the rodeo seats about 12 thousand patrons and during the rodeo’s excitement, Guts and Glory become rockstars. However, it is not just during the rodeo that they “pick up their axe.” They are busy during the rodeo off season, performing weekly for revivals, banquets and Christmas programs.
It’s not secret that it is a hard life to live. All inmates have required jobs to do and the band’s members are no exception. They somehow find the groove during two weekly four-hour practices and amidst a life of constant reflection.
Besides talent, the other qualification of being in the band is that every member must be in Class A or be a trustee.
Time is not just the measurement of their sentencing. Musically, time is also in the syncopation of rhythm. The band is a microcosm inside the Angola community, where discipline translates beyond rehearsal.
Thaddeus Webb is a vocalist for the band and says, “i’ve been in prison for 22 years and my band members have been in this band longer. They are more than friends, they are like family.”
The science of sound waves enables them to fly. In that way, the music of Angola flies far beyond the gates and walls and trouble. Music, no matter where it is played is audible freedom.
If you want to get the chance to check out Guts and Glory, you need to head over to the Angola Rodeo. The rodeo takes place this year Saturday and Sunday April 27th &28th.
You can purchase tickets here.