A few months after serving on a jury in a trial presided over by Judge Brandy Mueller, of Travis County Court at Law No. 6, Guy Forsyth found himself back in the courtroom Friday afternoon.
This time, instead of listening to the facts of a case and deliberating a verdict, the 47-year-old Austin musician was sharing words of wisdom and his songs with the youth offenders in the Project Engage program, a specialized docket in Mueller’s court within the adult criminal justice system.
Forsyth told of his journey from a 21-year-old street musician in Austin to a professional playing music for a living.
“Songs are ideas—rhythm, rhyme—this is a way we communicate ideas and make them stick,” Forsyth said to the rows of teenagers listening in the courtroom.
In between telling stories and sharing his thoughts on music and democracy, Forsyth strummed his acoustic guitar, playing tunes for the teens, lawyers, judge, and court staff gathered.
With a 9-year-old daughter, Forsyth said he wants to make the world a better place for her and shared his desire for himself and the teens to make change for the better.
“From what I figure, what I’m doing right here with you is making this world, the world I want for her,” Forsyth said.
Celebrating its fourth year, the program in Mueller’s court works with 17-, 18-, and 19-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system to try to reduce the number of revocations of probation, convictions, and jail sentences through supporting the teens and providing oversight and emphasizing school and/or work.
So far, participants have completed more than 2,500 hours of community service and 50 teenagers have graduated, the majority of which are now in school and employed, Mueller said.
“What makes this a celebration is the success of our graduates,” Mueller said.
Travis County court may not have seen the last of Forsyth—after his positive experience with jury duty, he agreed to soon help Mueller and Travis County District Clerk Velva Price with a Public Service Announcement about jury service.
Photos and video by Jillian Beck. Top: Guy Forsyth sings and plays guitar for teen offenders in the Project Engage program. Bottom left: Judge Brandy Mueller, of Travis County Court at Law No. 6, during the celebration and performance May 6.