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Kane County Jail inmates form prison band to help pass the time

“Ashes of Heartache" is a song by Brandon Babb.

“It’s a song I wrote about a relationship that didn’t work out,” said Babb.

It’s got a good hook, haunting lyrics sung by Craig Reed, but you can’t see the band perform it because the whole band are Utah Department of Corrections Inmates in the Kane County Jail, including the leader Aaron Richmond.

“Personally I think we probably have one of the best UDC bands in Utah, if not the best one,” said Richmond.

For about 22 hours a week, Richmond teaches music theory, history, and fun facts.

“I love seeing their faces light up when they learn something new about guitar, bass, or drums,” said Richmond.

Richmond has been serving time here almost three years. He says he has a marching band drum background and started teaching within his first three weeks at the Kane County Jail. He runs three groups, separated by skill level.

“We’ll start with easy three-chord songs and we’ll go into more detailed, advanced songs,” said Richmond.

The program started with a basic guitar class.

“And the Sheriff wanted to put some money into it and amp it up,” said Deputy Colton Cram.

Sheriff Ron Hain put Deputy Colton Cram in charge of it.

“I play drums, bass, guitar…. It’s kinda weird to sit down and jam with inmates, being a cop on the other side. I’ve sat down and played songs with them and practiced them,” said Cram.

It’s something Deputy Cram said he never pictured himself doing, but he enjoys it.

Kortney Stirland is the Choir Director. He lives on “The Outside” in Kanab. He agreed to come in 10 years ago, asked by members of the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to start a choir for Sunday services. He says the choir four-part harmony sounds good, and feels good.

“It lifts their spirits. That’s my purpose here is to bring to these men a little chance to liven up their lives," said Stirland.

His church told him his obligation was fulfilled years ago. But he hasn’t stopped coming here and teaching. On the day we were there he stopped by with some replacement strings for the jail’s violins.

“When I come in here, these guys really appreciate me,” said Stirland.

The Level 3 band played a Stone Temple Pilots grunge song during our visit. But they learn more than hard rock.

“If one guy says I’m only into metal, then I’ll start playing some country or classic rock for him,” Richmond said. “If he says he’s only into country, then I’ll start playing some grunge or some pop,” he added with a laugh.

The inmates like it so much they’ll work not to lose the privilege. And Deputy Cram says it makes his job easier.

“Helps develop repoire with the inmates. Kinda helps them realize that cops are human, too. And we realize they’re human, too. We don’t have to have that wall between us all the time,” said Richmond.

Richmond concludes, “I know that music brings so much to people, and the vibe and the positive influence for everybody.”
You can watch the band play at the Kanab County Jail:

Brian Champagne grew up in the less-famous Central California but left after starting his television news career there. He worked 22 years in news for NBC, ABC, Fox, and CBS affiliates in four markets. He served as chief photographer for KTXL-TV in Sacramento, but worked in front of the camera, too.