TEXAS DEATH ROW NEWS
JULY 15th 2022 | By Charles Don Flores #999299
“Shout for joy to God, all on earth; sing the glory of His name; give Him glorious praise! How awesome are Your deeds! So great is Your power that your enemies come cringing to You. All earth worships and sings praises to You; they sing praises to Your name.“-Psalm 66:1.
1. On July 14, 2022, the Texas death row faith based program (FBP), had a guest named Eric Genius. The men on the FBP did not know much about the guest except that he was a classical musician, was come to perform, and would be accompanied by a cellist and a violinist. At 5pm they arrived and began to set up their equipment.
Although we are in the FBP, we are still in solitary confinement, housed in maximum security cells, where there are metal gates, stairs, bars, and wire mesh throughout the pod. There is no open space in the FBP housing areas, so depending on where your cell is located, you can see the visitors speak, sing, perform, or you can’t. I am housed on the ground floor, towards the middle of the section, and when I stand at my cell door I can see the area where our visitors stand and perform reasonably well. When Eric Genius began to set up his equipment I stood at my door and quietly watched as they ran cables, connected speakers, keyboards; and I was also watching Eric too.
2. I know nothing about classical mus. My family did not listen to it nor did any of my friends. Nor can I remember ever seeing classical musicians perform. So, as I watch Eric set up I saw him connect a keyboard to a soundboard. I saw a young dark haired young lady with a violin, a young man who had a cello, and I saw another lady who was part of their group with no instrument, and thought to myself, is she the singer? If so, what kind of music does she sing? The times that I had listened to classical music on the NPR radio station, I did not hear anyone sing … could she be an opera singer maybe? These were my thoughts as I watched the activity, waiting for the performance to begin. When Eric, his fellow musicians and the field ministers had completed the job, we had 6 large Bose style speakers on custom stands positioned in A, B, and C sections and the show was ready to begin.
3. Eric Genuis began by introducing himself and his fellow musicians, Anna the violinist, Brandon the cellist, and Kelly the singer. Eric said these musicians were as good as any classical musicians you might pay hundreds of dollars to see in symphonies across the country. And they were all here to donate their time and talents to share their music with us. Eric said that he was not making any money from performing for us, he was losing money by being here with us this evening because no one was paying him. But he wanted to be here with us, in fact this was his 100th performance they had given in a prison setting. Eric was 55 years old, from Kentucky, and all the music performed tonight was composed by him. I was immediately clear that Eric was very passionate about his music and sharing it with others from the positive energy coming from him, and it was all love. His music was also free. If we wanted to have it given to your family write and ask him and he would send it to him, he said he answered every letter that was written to him.
- Eric said that when he was a young person, he had to save his money, then go to the record store and buy an album, then bring it home to listen to it on a record player. Nowadays, music is everywhere and available to anyone 24 hours a day. You see kids with their ear buds in where ever you go listening to music. Unfortunately, not all music is good music. Eric said the top-selling record last year had a title so vulgar that he would not repeat it’s name. He quoted Confucius, ”If you want to know the morality of any people, let me hear their music.” And Aristotle ” If you want to rule the people govern their music.”
These quotes made me consider how music affected us and brought to mind something I heard long ago, “just as you are what you eat, you are also what you listen to.” And this was why they had come to perform for us because he wanted to share the beauty that music can have. As Eric said this, I knew it was true because I had heard the violinist warming up playing solo and she was amazing with what she was playing and the music was very beautiful.
- Eric said that beauty was what we were all meant to be bathed in, and then the performance began. The first song was”Rabello”, which included the violin, cello and piano. Eric then sat down behind his keyboard and was transformed into someone else!
When he hit the key on his keyboard the atmosphere come alive with an amazing wave of sound that flowed from the big black speakers, then the violin and cello joined in and I do not know how, but the musician’s instruments began to speak! That is such an inadequate description of what we heard but it is the best that I can do, words do not exist to describe such beauty – it must be experienced because their music was alive. Eric lead this tidal wave of music with his piano. It was incredible to me because his small keyboard sounded like a huge concert hall size piano. And the way Eric played it, he seemed to be in super motion, he was moving his hands so fast, flying and down the keys. He would get caught up in what he was playing, leap up and create this awesome sound, then sit back down and play some more, it was unbelievable. Their first song lasted 8 to 10 minutes then suddenly the music stopped, Eric leaned back and had a big smile on his face and with a flourish he lifted his hands from the key and we knew it was the end of the song. And our applause thundered throught this building. Words cannot do justice to what we experienced.
- The next song was titled, “Promise.” This was the violin, cello, piano and vocalist. The thing was, she would not sing words. She would use her voice as an instrument, and when they began, what an instrument it was! Kelly sang in opera style and it was glorious. The way these musicians blended their sounds, it was heavenly. Not one word was said but the music was so beautiful and touched me deep inside my soul that all I could do was laugh.
After the second song, Eric spoke and told us a story about an experience they had performing for some juveniles and the leader of this group of young people was 16 years old, was deeply moved by the music. This boy was the alpha of the group, and he peppered them with questions, he wanted to know how could Anna, the violinist play so fast? How did she know where to press the strings on her violin as she played in what appeared to be a blur? And why had we never heard this kind of music before? This boy knew every rap song that was popular and all about the culture that produced that kind of music but had never heard a violin play. Never heard the beauty of classical music, and was sentenced to be sent away for 30 years in prison. Then the boy requested the violin play a solo, and she played for him. As she played, the boy stood up and as he listened tears began to run down his face. The beauty of the music hit to the core of who this child was, and he was touched in a way he had never been touched by music.
- Then Eric played a song called, ”Redemption.” It was also very beautiful and touched me deeply. After this song, he began to tell us about himself and how he had a son who had committed suicide, and later he would tell us he had a daughter who was born with Down’s Syndrome, and then I knew who Eric Genius was. He was a man who was climbing his second mountain. He’s scaled his first mountain with success with his musical talent, but like many people, including myself, life had broken us. Yet, somehow we have found a way to put the pieces back together and live for a higher purpose. Brother Eric knew what life has taught me – suffering is universal but victimhood is optional. When we have lost the most precious people we’ve ever known, we must find a reason to keep on living. He said something that struck a chord inside of me, that the greatest form of charity was putting yourself to serve the craziest, lowest person around. And the greatest human experience was love.
- Eric, Anna, Brandon and Kelly would also play, “Hero,” and “Here I Am” and they were also deeply moving beautiful As he closed the performance which lasted 2 hours, he told us he would be back in October 2022! When they were done, we got to meet Eric and the musicians as they walked through the housing area, from cell to cell chatting with us. When I talked to Eric, he saw the hand made cross necklace I wore around my neck and he said look! And out from under his shirt, he pulled out a handmade cross that he also wore! It was such a blessing to meet Eric and his friend and I cannot wait until they come to play for us again in October. I know that will be another amazing performance!