OREM —After the death of a son, brother and friend, a foundation has been created to remember a 14-year-old boy who found solace through music.
The J. Wesley Foundation strives to help children express themselves through music in memory of Wes Buckner, and it is hosting a benefit concert featuring guest artist Massimiliano Frani and will donate a piano to a child between 8 and 18-years-old later this year.
The benefit concert will take place Friday at Brigham Larson Pianos on 1497 S. State St., Orem at 7 p.m. The entrance fee is a $10 cash donation.
Jon Wesley "Wes" Buckner was born Jan. 23, 2001, and according to the foundation website, loved music in utero.
"He kicked like crazy during the hymns in church," said his older sister Jessica Edwards.
This connection to music drew him to the piano and provided his passion for performing and composing original pieces, she said.
"On March 28, 2015, our lives were changed forever by the momentary decision our Wes made to end his life after a long struggle with depression and anxiety," the family said in a statement.
Edwards said that while her brother struggled at times, he was free when he was playing the piano and composing.
"There was so much positivity that came from Wes, and we want to carry on his music and his gift instead of focusing on how he died," Edwards said.
The foundation will focus on helping other children through music and also raise money for suicide prevention and awareness.
"We never want anyone to have to experience such a loss," she said in an email. "Additionally though, we have found through the loss that we can focus on how he lived and what he loved in life and carry on his legacy through sharing music and joy, and that there is great healing in that too."
Foundation co-founder Amberly Asay Janke said the foundation started after she went to a candlelight vigil with Mary Buckner, Wes' mother.
"She told me how she wanted to do something in memory of Wes and she wanted it to be musical," Janke said. "She said, 'I would love to give a piano to a deserving kid, but I don't have enough money to buy a piano.'"
From there, Janke suggested they plan a benefit concert to raise money for the piano and start a foundation in memory of Wes.
Initially, Wes' family was nervous about how people would react to the foundation, but as soon as they announced it on social media, it "exploded," Janke said.
"Everyone was sending their love and support and wanting to help in any way that they could," she said. "A person donated their piano within the first 10 minutes. People keep on continuing to donate money, and we haven't even had the concert yet."
Janke said they began putting together a benefit concert after Brigham Larson's Pianos donated its concert hall as a venue and Italian pianist Massimiliano Frani volunteered to be the guest artist.
Frani is not only a concert pianist, but began researching the use of music as a medical tool about 25 years ago and has collaborated with a therapeutic boarding school.
"While working with troubled youth, I discovered that music could have measurable, quantifiable results in human behavior," he said in an email. "This planted a desire to develop a scientific use for music in the medical field."
Frani is the CEO of Genote Health Music that provides music programs with "new scientific ways to apply music to the therapeutic process."
The J. Wesley Foundation resonates strongly with Genote Health Music's company values, he wrote.
"As a society, we have predominantly categorized music as a purely artistic or entertaining medium for a very long time," Frani wrote. "But broadcasting that music can be used as a medicinal tool, and even as a communicative tool, may lead to substantial help in coping and healing for families that suffer from many types of trauma."
While the J. Wesley Foundation is still in the process of becoming an official non-profit organization, Junior Chamber International, which recently restarted its Utah chapter, is helping the foundation to put on the benefit concert.
Proceeds from the concert and other fundraising efforts will go to tuning the donated piano, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and toward a musical scholarship, Janke said.
Scholarship applications for the piano close Dec. 1, and the foundation plans on selecting a recipient by the middle of December and getting the piano to them by Christmas, she explained.
Those who qualify for the piano scholarship must be between 8 and 18-years-old, love music, want to continue his or her piano education and be unable to afford a piano.
Joe Atkin, one of the donors, said that while music wasn't a big motivator in his life, he had a personal connection with foundation because he knew the Buckners and because his cousin died by suicide when he was a young teenager. He said he hoped talking about suicide prevention could "shed light" and provide a way to "reach out to those who are hurting."
"Hopefully that gives people hope, comfort and confidence," he said. "Those are the three gifts that I want to give others, and I think this foundation can deliver those."
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