INTERVIEW: Rock to Recovery’s Wesley Geer & Sonny Mayo
SoCalMusicToday.com recently attended the Rock To Recovery 2 concert and fundraiser at The Fonda Theater in Los Angeles (click here for review). To illuminate and describe more about what the organization does, we spoke to guitarist Sonny Mayo who is the Rock to Recovery Program Administrator and Rock To Recovery Founder/CEO Wesley Geer. Mayo & Geer explained details of how R2R1 differed from R2R2, the organization’s goals and objectives and how Rock To Recovery’s approach and methodology is unique and their future goals.
In a brief paragraph, can you describe the organization and what it does?
Sonny Mayo: R2R is a nonprofit organization that brings music to people in various stages of recovery. We do this by forming a “band” with people and writing/recording an original song together. We bring the therapeutic value of playing/writing/recording music to in musicians. We record our song and upload it to Soundcloud so our band members can hear it and share it with loved ones. We’ve uploaded over 8,800 songs!
We began this work in Orange County in drug/alcohol treatment centers with a goal of reaching out to wounded veterans, mental health facilities, etc. Since then, we have expanded and we have 11 program administrators, do over 400 groups a month in over 60 facilities from Malibu to San Diego.
We also have a relationship with the Air Force Wounded Warriors program. They fly us to events all over the country to do our work with vets and to perform our songs at the closing ceremonies of each event for upwards of 300 vets, active duty personnel, and their families.
How does the organization decide to who to honor and what’s the criteria?
Sonny Mayo: The R2R Icon award is given to a public figure in the music world who has been through their own battles with addiction, is overcoming those battles, who uses their power and influence to bring hope to whole generations who may also be struggling and is thriving on a daily basis.
The R2R Service Award is given to a public figure in the music world who focuses their time, energy, and musical prowess on “giving back” to those who may be institutionalized, incarcerated, or destitute through nonprofit and/or charitable work.
How would you compare Rock to Recovery 1 versus Rock to Recovery 2? Is there anything that changed or was done differently this time around?
Sonny Mayo: The love and energy of both events was amazing but this year was a sellout!
There were certain “lessons” we got from R2R 1 that we handled for R2R 2. Mainly in utilizing our incredible volunteers, bringing in an event planner from the start and the event promotion. We were grossly understaffed for our first event, yet we pulled it off due to the dedication of a few volunteers and our R2R program administrators.
For R2R 2, we presented two awards. Last year we gave Mike Ness (Social Distortion) the Rock to Recovery Icon Award, which we presented to Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) this year. We added the R2R Service Award this year, having been so inspired by the work of Wayne Kramer (MC5) and his non-profit organization, Jail Guitar Doors.
How long have you been involved and what motivated or spurred your interest to be part of the organization?
Sonny Mayo: I’ve been a program administrator with R2R since May of 2014 and am on the board of directors for our nonprofit. When our founder, Wes Geer, shared the initial idea with me in late 2012, I instantly exclaimed, “I want in!”.
I was able to help Wes develop the methodology over the first year after he launched sessions in Orange County and I began running groups in LA in May of 2014. My love of music and passion for helping people is the perfect combination for this work.
Why do you feel this organization is different from than any other out there?
Sonny Mayo: I believe R2R is unique in that we write/record original songs with people that aren’t musicians. Also, having gone through the struggles of addiction/alcoholism places us in a position to connect with people beyond the standard therapeutic relationships. We understand them because we ARE them.
Does the organization have a certain goal to raise money each year and would you say the goal was meet or exceeded?
Wesley Geer: We been blessed in that we haven’t been in a position that we need to set hard goals to function. As we have a for-profit entity that absorbs almost all of our admin costs, we’ve also been able to self-fund our NPO mission thus far. The NPO fundraisers help us grow our reach, and each year we’ve been fortunate enough to be more successful than the last. So the growth and success has been nice. Our dream is to raise millions of dollars, because we know how far that will take the reach of our program, enabling us to access all the branches of the military. Based on our success there, we look forward to achieving this goal soon!
What are the plans for the future with the organization? Is there a wish list?
Sonny Mayo: We’re definitely looking to expand our program to other states. And we have plans to launch a R2R podcast!
Wesley Geer: Because of the vast success of our program, we want to take it everywhere we can, broadening to other states, other countries, other branches of the military and just help proliferate the magic powers of playing music, to those hurting as far and wide as possible. We have lots of plans and dreams for growth and expansion, but we are going to play this close to the vest until we unveil each one!
Rock to Recovery on YouTube
Rock to Recovery Soundcloud