Professional saxophone player Ted Wagner was a firsthand witness to the therapeutic power of music when he worked as a music therapy volunteer at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. "Music gives voice to their pain and their fears," Wagner explained during an interview at his Pasadena office, "and allows them to express themselves creatively."
Wagner came up with the idea for Music Sweet Music when he discovered that music therapy programs for children at the hospital concluded when they were released. "I saw a real need for continuing support."
So, along with some altruistic associates, he established a nonprofit organization to help fund sessions with board-certified music therapists and allow children to keep their instruments — hand drums, shakers, mini-guitars and, most importantly, their Q-chords, or "digital songcard guitars." Made by Suzuki, the Q-chord has a body that looks like a guitar, buttons that work like a basic keyboard — some producing rhythms, some producing individual chords — and a "strum plate" that, when stroked, generates a series of tones similar to those "turn the page" chimes you hear in old-school storybooks.
Wagner hosted his first fundraiser for MSM five years ago and has since helped establish music therapy programs at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital and Shriner's Children's Hospital. Although not a music therapist himself, he frequently attends music therapy sessions and can't emphasize enough the positive impact they have on their pint-sized patients.
Parents seem to agree; a stack of comment cards are filled with encouraging and enthusiastic feedback. But it's the satisfaction and gratitude of the children that truly moves Wagner. "The smiles are my biggest reward."