In 2001, Wagner started Music Sweet Music (MSM), a South Pasadena-based nonprofit that uses music therapists and special instruments to neurologically help patients with mental and physical issues.
“I’m a musician by trade, but I wanted to do more with my music,” said Wagner. “This is all volunteer for me.”
Music Sweet Music most frequently uses a keyboard-like instrument called a QChord, the guitar and singing voices to soothe and re-focus patients.
“Neurologically, if there is a damaged part of the brain, the music will help,” said Wagner.
At Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, doctors team up with music therapists to assist children with disabilities. Children with physical limitations, autism, speech impediments and trauma-related disorders all benefit from the music sessions.
“The doctor will call us in for procedures, like they might have us work with a child while he’s getting a spinal tap,” said Wagner.
Currently the organization has four board-certified music therapists that travel to hospitals and homes to treat patients. According to Wagner, Music Sweet Music treats about 15,000 people annually.
Their studio, decorated with stuffed bears and colorful toys, is being sound-proofed while the team travels to patients.
While MSM focuses mainly on children, some clients have aged with the organization and are now 20 to 30 years old.
“We would never turn anybody away,” said Wagner.
One of MSM’s clients is a rape survivor that was attacked and left to die outside a library when she was only 18. The brutal assault left her unable to walk or speak on her own.
The woman began receiving treatment from Music Sweet Music among other types of therapy.
Another patient’s mother told Wagner that the last time she saw her terminally ill child smile was when he was given a donated QChord.
The organization frequently donates instruments to children in need and has given free treatment to families in financial need.
“This has really opened my eyes,” said May Graci, MSM’s public relations manager and assistant to Wagner. “You and I can complain all the time but when you see someone who needs help, it’s different.”
The organization is funded solely through donations and fundraisers. Each QChord is about $400, and an average, used guitar is anywhere from $300 to 600.
For more information about Music Sweet Music, or if you are interested in donating, visit the website at musicsweetmusic.org.