A local foundation hosted a benefit concert to raise money to help underprivileged children pursue their dreams of playing music.
The benefit concert, featuring renowned concert pianist Massimiliano Frani, was the J. Wesley foundation’s first event, which honored Wes Buckner.
“The concert for Wes will not be a piano recital in the way most people are accustomed to,” Frani said. “The selected program aims to leave a deeply resonating effect on the audience. Through the musical footprint he left behind, and music’s known interaction with many ailments, there may be so much we can still ponder about him and about his musical world.”
Wes Buckner loved music. According to his parents, before Wes was even born, he had a sense for music. Whenever a piano or organ started to play, he would start moving around and kicking his mom.
Wes loved composing pieces, and by age 6 was performing his own compositions. In sixth grade, Wes composed a piece for the Utah National PTA Reflections.
When Wes died in March 2015, his family wanted to continue Wes Buckner’s legacy by helping other children pursue their dreams of playing and composing music.
Amberly Asay, the co-founder of the J. Wesley Foundation, got involved in the project when she attended a candlelight vigil in memory of Wes. Mary Buckner had voiced that she wished she could do more for her son’s memory.
“I asked her, ‘if you could do anything, what would you do?'” Asay said. “(Mary Buckner) said she wished she could help an undeserving kid who loved music.”
And so the J. Wesley Foundation was born.
Asay, along with Mary Buckner, decided to raise money to give away a piano within the first year, then they would later give away musical scholarships. The foundation was created on Sept. 18, and it has been a busy few months. Together, Mary Buckner and Asay started a GoFundMe site, trying to raise money for the foundation.
“We did a lot of prep before announcing the site,” Asay said. “But as soon as we posted it, it just exploded … within the first 10 minutes someone said they had a piano they wanted to donate.”
Their GoFundMe site already surpassed their goal and will now continue collecting money for next year’s scholarships. Asay said she believes the quick reaction can be attributed to the type of non-profit, which hits close to home for a lot of people.
“The mission really affects people in the community,” Asay said. “Utah loves fine arts, and they really emphasize it. Anything that really helps with that gets people excited.”
And people are excited to hear Massimiliano Frani’s music.
Frani graduated from BYU earning a Masters and PhD in music, piano performance and pedagogy. Since then, he has performed as a soloist with chamber music ensembles and orchestras in Italy, the US, Japan, Germany, Canada and Hungary.
Asay met Frani in April of this year. “I don’t believe anything happened by accident. I was meant to meet him,” Asay said.
Frani, who will be traveling from Italy this week, said in an email of his involvement in the concert, “the project was appealing because it resonates so strongly with what I’ve spent so much of my life studying.”
Frani is the CEO of Genote, a music education therapy methodology which he has helped develop for the last 26 years.
“I got involved in music when I was very young,” Frani said. “Since then, I’ve been fortunate to have an international career as a performer, composer, music education professional and researcher, which led to creating Genote.”
Both Frani and Asay have strong opinions that children are benefited immensely when they are involved in music.
“Most people don’t realize that music is affecting each of us every day,” Frani said, “whether we choose to pay attention to its effect or not. It has a direct effect on our psychology, physiology, emotional and cognitive states. Music can influence brain functions and even body chemistry. What we are finding is that music is more than just an emotional language, it goes much deeper than that.”
Asay believes that music is a very natural, important part of people’s lives. She said when music plays, people immediately react.
“Fine arts and music helps people grow and experience things emotionally, without actually having to go through that experience themselves,” Asay said. “Like if you go to a play, the father is killed, you can feel the empathy and sadness for that family without having to go through it yourself. It’s a very spiritual and enlightening experience.”
The concert was held at Brigham Larson Pianos in Orem on Friday, Oct. 23. Wes Buckner’s friend played a song that Buckner composed, followed by a performance by Frani.