When I was sixteen I was sent to an alternative school in the Maine woods. For two years I lived in a small house with fifty other adolescents. Elan was a closed society of its own rules; a program designed to help us understand ourselves and others. 

After graduating I wrote a hundred songs but never finished one about The Elan School. Here at last is "No One Gets Free."
We arranged this song at the Magpie Cage studio for acoustic, nylon string and baritone guitars, bells and Gordon Withers' cello alongside a rock band. 

Elan taught uncommon insight: why we respond to a given situation, how to reverse my prejudice. As students we grew close; brothers and sisters. But like many schools of its kind, Elan was accused of abuse.
The accusers were not wrong, at least in part. Scenes described in national media of structured swearing and yelling, boxing rings, tight controls on our movement and smiles, and students isolated for days were not exceptions to the program. They were the program. Many who experienced it struggle with the memory. There also were incidents of abuse far outside the program's bounds. 

Teaching and helping each other through extraordinary commitment was also the program, and probably the part I most took with me. I am grateful for that. Elan was shuttered in 2011, leaving a complicated legacy. Today I mostly think about what we can do with what we learned.  

Darling, are we all of the same? Darling, more pleasure than pain? And it seems, in our school by the thieves, something of us never leaves. - "No One Gets Free"
I will play at Washington's Studio Gallery this Friday Dec. 1st, 2108 R Street NW; ambiance for the Dupont Circle art walk from 6-8pm. Notaries Public will play U Street's Velvet Lounge on Thurs. Dec. 14. 

Thanks and I hope you enjoy the song. 

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