Give the Gift of Music to Wounded Warriors

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Newport Sunrise Rotary Club member Laura Dietz is on a mission to collect each and every unwanted and unused musical instrument she can find in our good city, to help bring the healing gift of music to the Wounded Warrior Battalion-West.

She suspects, and I am guessing she’s right, that there are probably untold numbers of perfectly good, forgotten or unused and unwanted musical instruments taking up space in just about every closet, garage and storage unit in Newport and beyond.

This is a shame, since those instruments could go to good use by Resounding Joy, Inc., a non-profit organization that is providing the gift of music to members of the WWB who are recovering from the physical and/or psychological effects of war.

(Left to right) Jeff Heileson, ukulele donor, Newport Sunrise Rotary President Francisco Reneiro, and Rotary USMC liaison Laura Dietz with guitar donated by Andy Campell of the Newport Balboa Rotary.

Laura and her fellow rotary club members would like to help fill a need for instruments for the program, with the help of the community.

Considering all the former 12-year-old aspiring rockstars out there who abandoned their guitars, drums and piano keyboards for cheerleading or football, I am guessing a few parents would be happy to pull out those instruments, dust them off and donate them to a worthy cause.

(As I type, I am eyeing a dust-laden harmonica languishing on a music stand, wondering if my husband would notice its departure….)

Laura told me about a recent needs assessment trip she took to the WWB administration offices at Camp Pendleton to find out how rotary and the community at large could help, and the last thing she thought she would be asked to do was find musical instruments for the recovering soldiers.

“After we discussed a few ideas, the staff sergeant suddenly remembered, ‘Oh, we need musical instruments, like guitars, for a music therapy program we’re starting this summer,’” she said.

The unlikely suggestion truly ‘struck a chord’ with Laura.

“As a musician myself, I have no doubt as to the benefits of music therapy, and since my goal is to help achieve the best possible treatment for our wounded warriors, I knew this challenge was one I could wholeheartedly embrace,”  she told me emphatically.

Laura did some homework and the more she learned about music therapy, the more she realized its positive impact on healing. She found that research has proven music therapy interventions can help patients alleviate pain, enhance memory, express feelings, improve communication, manage stress, promote physical rehabilitation, and further overall wellness.

These findings are not limited to wounded warriors, but also being utilized for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer patients, autistic children, and many other medically beneficial applications.

At the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, the music therapy program began officially in October 2010, under the auspices of Resounding Joy, with funding from the non-profit Semper Fi Fund, great examples of how private citizens can make a huge difference.

The program is headed by Barbara Reuer, Ph.D., who explained to Laura that when the program first began, she encountered some hesitancy, but after a while it really caught on. Today, about 75 warriors have found relief and regained hope through music therapy.

During a recent television interview, Reuer explained that music can reach parts of the brain that nothing else can. One researcher has claimed that it can even penetrate psychosis. For many, their doctors order “music therapy” on a prescription pad just like they would an antidepressant.

The WWB is officially launching the music therapy program at Camp Pendleton on July 11, for an 8-week summer session. With proper funding (private grants, individual donations, etc.) it will continue as part of the general program.

However, the following instruments are still needed and this is where you, dear readers, come in. The program is in need of gently used guitars (classical, acoustic, electric, and electric base); tenor ukuleles; portable keyboards; harmonicas (key of C), 50-packs of extra-light guitar strings; snark electric tuners; assorted percussion, hand drums, Cajon box/drum and bins/bags for storage. Instruments should be in full working order.

To make a tax-deductible donation of an instrument, email: [email protected] or call 714-606-8384. Pick-up arrangements can be made for Orange County.

Special thanks for this story go to Laura Dietz, and those she is working with at WWB including Sgt. Major Mark O’Loughlin, SSgt Jennifer Kerr, USN Command Chief Aaron Siebert, Operations Chief Sean Sargeant, PA Paul Swanson, Sgt. Michael Mozingo, as well as Semper Fi Fund founder Karen Guenther, and  Barbara Reuer, Ph.D., MusicWorx, Inc.


Lynn Selich is a freelance columnist and public relations consultant.  She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Facebook at Lynn Selich-Columnist.

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