[Update 1/10/2018]: This month, Oliver was profiled in Reintegrating the Formerly Incarcerated, part of New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute’s Cross Streets of New York multimedia project. Enjoy the video below, then continue reading Oliver’s story of art and hope through Fortune’s Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) and Creative Arts programs.
When I’m playing the keyboard or producing beats, I get lost in the moment. Music helps me express whatever I’m going through—it’s a cool sensation.
I’d describe my musical style as mystical. It’s space-y, and leaves you feeling free, as if you’re floating in the universe. Without The Fortune Society, though, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the freedom I have now. About six months ago, I became involved with the criminal justice system. Luckily, a family friend works here, and encouraged me to enroll in their Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) program.
Fortune gives people opportunities to piece their lives back together. When I first joined, I met with John Runowicz, manager of their Creative Arts program. He encouraged me to take part in the keyboard classes that they have available. From there, I joined Road Recovery’s #RoadTrax program, which connects young people to professional musicians with similar life experiences. At the end of the program, we held a concert at Fortune’s Long Island City headquarters, showcasing the music we created together.
It feels great to spend time with participants and staff who understand where I’m coming from. We talk to each other about our lives and what we’re struggling with. We laugh and have fun, too. Plus, we get to play with professional musicians who really know the ins and outs of music. The lessons they teach are like diamonds to me.
Since joining Fortune, I’ve gotten more comfortable with opening up and sharing, and I’ve appreciated being a part of something bigger than myself. Before we had our big show, the musicians we worked with encouraged us to just put our best foot forward, and let go of fear and shyness. Support like that showed me that it’s a team effort here, and that means a lot to me.
It felt especially good when we were all playing together and just jamming out. We’d freestyle and come up with cool things in the moment. There’s no need for words then—the music speaks for us. Deeper connections are built that way.
Fortune’s ATI and Creative Arts programs gave me an avenue to focus my attention on something other than negative behavior. Here, I concentrate on the music, instead, and that’s been transformative. The shift in attention was essential for me.
Today, I am inspired to practice music on my own even more, and master what I love to do. I’ve had a lot of fun at Fortune, and would join more creative programs again in a heartbeat. With the connections I’ve gained here, my future is filled with possibility.
* Oliver Terrero is a participant at The Fortune Society.