Elvera Voth is a storied conductor who made a name for herself in the choral music world of Anchorage, Alaska. Voth came up in a time when it was unusual for a woman to lead a chorus, but saw incredible success in spite of that fact. She founded the Anchorage Boys Choir, the University of Alaska Singers, and served as director of the Anchorage Lyric Opera, among many other activities.
After she retired in 1995, Voth moved back to her home state of Kansas, and decided to direct an entirely different choir: the prisoners at the Lansing Correctional Facility. The “East Hill Singers” became the first test case in Voth’s new project, Arts in Prison. She recruited local Kansas City singers to flesh out and mentor the group, and they eventually toured outside prison walls.
The group Voth founded carries through to this day. Most recently, members of the Kansas City Symphony performed at the Lansing facility as part of Arts in Prison’s ongoing ministry.
Arts in Prison has broadened its mission beyond its initial offerings, now incorporating debate and public speaking training, yoga and meditation, visual arts and more.
“I just didn’t want to give them one more failure in life,” Voth said about the prisoners. “[T]hey are coming home sooner or later. Do you want them to come back with hate in their eyes or hope in their hearts?”