Arts and Music Programs for Education in Detention Centers

Connect with young people in the juvenile detention center through arts and music.


The Arts and Music Programs for Education in Detention Centers (AMPED) is a music mentorship program that connects Northwestern students with incarcerated young men at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC). Developed in collaboration with faculty and graduate students at the Bienen School of Music, AMPED combines detailed lessons, one-on-one instruction, and supplementary programming, to create opportunities for shared learning and authentic relationships.

AMPED is a yearlong program that begins with a comprehensive mentor training program in the fall. AMPED Northwestern students learn basic music composition and GarageBand techniques. Recognizing the importance of relationship building, mentors also discuss youth development frameworks and strategies for connecting with the population of focus. Together, these trainings ensure that Northwestern students enter the classroom with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide one-on-one attention and support to the young men in the program.

Composition classes and practice sessions begin in January and continue throughout the winter and spring quarters, concluding with a “listening party” for students to share the work they composed and produced. JTDC students’ families and friends, as well as AMPED supporters, are invited to attend.

Check out plans for AMPED 2023-2024.

Get Involved

A team of Northwestern undergraduate students is selected each year to work with the residents at the JTDC. Beyond assisting with music composition projects, mentors build trusting relationships with JTDC students in an effort to help them process and communicate their experiences in a way that heals and empowers. While classical training or previous composition experience is not required, mentors must be passionate about the role of music in youth development. Most importantly, mentors must view this as a mutually beneficial opportunity and be open to learning and growing themselves.

Responsibilities for AMPED music mentors:

  • Complete three-four training sessions during late fall/early winter quarter
  • Attend mentoring sessions throughout winter and spring quarters (transportation provided for in-person sessions)
  • Participate in ongoing trainings and reflections during winter and spring quarters


The 2023-2024 AMPED Mentor application has closed. Check back Fall 2024!

About the JTDC

The Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center provides temporary housing and education for court-detained juveniles between the ages of 10 and 17 who are awaiting adjudication of their cases. The Center also houses youth who will be transferred to the county jail once they turn 18 who would otherwise be incarcerated in the county jail.

Operating within the confines of the Center is Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School, a Chicago Public School that the youth attend while incarcerated. The educational programs provided by NBJ are mandatory for all detainees at the Center. In addition to the regularly required courses, some students participate in outside enrichment programs, such as AMPED.

Student Music

Listen to samples of AMPED students’ music below or on Soundcloud