Alaska Life

Hiland Mountain Women's Correctional Orchestra prepares for holiday concert (+video)

In 1997, Sarah Coffman's life had hit bottom. Convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree burglary, she found herself serving a 14-year prison sentence at Eagle River's Hiland Mountain Correctional Center. Coffman was released in February of this year, but will return to the prison on Dec. 8 to play with the orchestra that has been an important part of her life for the past nine years.

Arts on the Edge, a non-profit group founded by Pati Crofut, started the women's orchestra at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in 2003. Coffman signed up to play as soon as she could. She credits the orchestra with helping her overcome the problems that she faced 14 years ago. "Music helps you express your feelings. It's not something that you can get from other [rehabilitation] programs."

Being in an orchestra challenges you to grow, Coffman says, and being part of a group makes you aware of your responsibility to others in the group. "Being involved in the arts is a very good thing for anybody," she says.

The Hiland Mountain Correctional Center Women's Orchestra will play two public concerts with guest cellist Zuill Bailey at the prison on Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 12:30 and 3:30PM. Because the concert will be held inside the prison, ticket sales end on Dec. 7 in order to allow for processing of background checks. Tickets are $30, available at Center Tix or Metro Music & Books.

Loren Holmes

Loren Holmes is a staff photojournalist at the Anchorage Daily News. Contact him at