“Doc O” Leads Prison Band

June 10, 2015

This story was written by Clark Newsom, Internal Communications Director, South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) under the title “BRCI Concert Band Holds First Concert” and was re-printed from SCDC’s quarterly internal newsletter, The Rap Sheet.

Dr. David Osterlund, known around CIU and the prison as “Doc O” is a retired CIU music professor, and is co-director of the CIU Prison Initiative.

After over of a year of organization, practices and preparation, The Broad River Correctional Institution (BRCI) Concert Band at the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) in Columbia held its first concert May 29, 2015 in the BRCI Chapel. They performed for inmates, staff and some family members of the group. Dr. David Osterlund of Columbia International University (CIU), who is the founder and director of the group, proudly led 46 inmates in musical numbers played on the recorder, guitar and violin, and by the full concert band. Solos were also sung by inmates from the group.

Believed to possibly be the only concert prison band in the country, The Broad River CI musicians were assembled by Dr. Osterlund in August 2013. Most of the group had little to no musical training, just a love of music and a desire to learn.

 The concert band utilizes the unoccupied Greenwood Dorm at Broad River CI for group and individual practice time three days a week. Band members are expected to practice on their own at least 30 minutes per day. Inmates who participate must display incident-free behavior and show an interest in learning to read and play music to qualify for the program. The members experience 15-weeks of training initially and have to demonstrate the skills necessary to begin training on brass, woodwind or percussion instruments. The concert band program at SCDC is based on four years of musical study leading to a certificate.  The certificate signifies a level of advancement which indicates a student’s ability to complete a task and demonstrate to a potential employer that the participant has the ability to be faithful in his work with a desire to improve.

All the instruments and sheet music used by the inmates have been loaned or donated to the program from such organizations as Columbia International University, Lexington Baptist Church, the Southern Baptist Association, Rice Music House, Schimitt Music Corporation and from private donations. Dr. Osterlund also praises the volunteer help he receives in working with the inmates from David Waldrop, a CIU graduate, and Jack Lewis, a current graduate student at the university.

Despite an absence of about six months to recover from double bypass heart surgery, Dr. Osterlund is pleased with the effort and progress of the concert band. “The guys are working hard and have improved their individual and group performances every day,” Osterlund says. “They tell me that being a part of a musical group like this is enjoyable, therapeutic, and mentally and physically uplifting.”