Karen learned about SWAN from a social worker at school after her husband, Alex’s incarceration. She immediately enrolled her daughters, Natasha, who was 7 at the time, and Brooklyn, who was 5.
Karen, Alex, and their children are a close family so Alex’s incarceration hit Natasha and Brooklyn hard. They had to face the reality that the father they loved would no longer be there in person. Day by day for the past three years, they have had to bear that reality and many more days lie ahead since Alex is serving a 4.5 – 10-year sentence.
“When I am stuck at home I want to sing my heart out and it makes me feel like I am in heaven.” Brooklyn
When Karen spoke of the benefits of her daughters taking SWAN music lessons, she mentioned that it was an escape for them. Brooklyn, who is now 8, expressed it this way, “When I am stuck at home I want to sing my heart out and it makes me feel like I am in heaven.” For 10-year-old Natasha, who plays the ukulele and violin, “Music gives me a private place to go to and makes me feel better because it helps to get my anger out.”
Karen said that Alex is a big part of the girls’ success with their music lessons. He calls daily to encourage them. Since the prisons had to cancel all visits due to the pandemic, they now allow video chats instead of the typical phone calls. This gives the girls a chance to play their instruments for Alex and see his face light up with joy over their accomplishments.
Natasha said her dad always tells them to keep practicing and to work hard. He reminds them that he is also taking courses, studying, and earning certificates because he wants to be a better person and succeed when he gets out of prison.
When Natasha gets nervous before a performance, her father tells her not to doubt herself. She thinks about her dad when she is performing. “I know he is praying for me and cheering me on so I play from my heart and that makes me happy.”
Natasha said that her family is the only family she would want to have. “My parents help us with our problems and love everything that we do.”