After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly after graduating from the University of Oregon in 2013, musician Alex Wagner set his sights on helping college students address mental health challenges. The prevalence of mental illness, much like his own, led to the inception of his nonprofit initiative, Grooving for Good.
Seattle’s own UW will be home to Grooving for Good’s campus debut on May 19th, timely since May is observed as Mental Health Awareness Month. The free event, open exclusively to UW students, will combine art, music, and panel discussions.
The themes of the day will center around hope, resilience, empowerment, and support: each of which he credits with saving his life. By equipping students with the same tools, he hopes to help others facing mental crises and avoid them altogether.
Performing artists include Tommie Sunshine and ASW
Artists headlining the event include Wagner himself (under his ASW project), and fellow mental health advocate and producer Tommie Sunshine.
Tommie Sunshine’s catalog is packed with driving house beats and an energetic temperament spanning four decades. His brand is built off of some eclectic endeavors: a mega-mix of popular Katy Perry songs, original tracks for a handful of the Dance Dance Revolution video games, and an adjunct professor career at NYU.
Additionally, ASW pieces together bits of the universe to create music that amplifies hope within others. In September 2021, DJ Mag listed him as an emerging artist to watch. In addition, he has been featured by Space Yacht, Abracadabra TV, SPIN.com, SiriusXM, and more.
As a mental health advocate, he has raised thousands of dollars for Crisis Text Line and other nonprofits. ASW continually works on bridging the worlds of arts, music, and wellbeing.
Discussion panels, art, and more
It is Alex’s goal to integrate dance music into mental health conversations with the college youth. In order to combine these two therapeutic activities, the Grooving for Good UW Experience consists of two parts:
- The Garden, which includes an interactive panel with NAMI, Tommie Sunshine, ASW, and Pup Support that explores four themes: Hope, Resilience, Empowerment, and Support.
- The Dahlia Experience, which encourages solidarity surrounding mental health through giving students a platform to share their stories. Students present poetry, music, art, and dance, culminating with the two headlining performances from Tommie Sunshine and ASW.
The Grooving for Good UW experience will continue into the evening outside of UW at the Substation in Seattle from 8 pm – 1 am. Tommie Sunshine will be headlining on the decks with local support ASW, Cafenico, Rachel Vick, Snapdragon, Tony H. Tickets are available for guests ages 21+, $15 presale (click here to purchase) and $25 at the door.
Partners in the event, where to donate
Communities with stronger mental health take a village, which Grooving for Good also leans into. They’re partnering with several other organizations and sponsors to pull off their big campus debut.
Pup Support, a UW-focused organization supporting mental health, will help host the event through facilitating educational panels and creative outlets. In addition, the Seattle chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) is also an important partner in the event. Both partners will receive a chunk of donations raised after covering operational costs for throwing the event.
It’s worth noting that Grooving for Good centers around wide access for all students who can benefit. Because of this, tickets are free and all students are welcome. There’s a GoFundMe link available to help offset some of the operational costs that allow for open attendance and a full slate of programming.
What’s next for Grooving for Good?
With each fundraising event Wagner throws, the Grooving for Good movement continues growing. He first started setting up local shows in various venues throughout Seattle in August 2021, and is only getting started. Although the UW event may be Grooving for Good’s campus debut, Wagner’s working on securing future campus events nationwide.
He’s also got plans to expand Grooving for Good’s online community presence. Wagner shares:
“After the University of Washington event, I will be developing an online community-building platform. It will be a digital ecosystem that will act as the foundation of all Grooving for Good operations moving forward. It will be powered by members who seek to inspire meaningful change in their communities through music, the arts, and more. I cannot wait to share it when the platform is ready.”
Support mental health and join Grooving for Good
Mental health has been a topic of discussion within the dance music community for a long time. Whether a mental illness, period of crisis, or struggle, nearly everyone can identify with the mission of Grooving for Good. Follow along with Grooving for Good as they continue growing and if you’re a student, check out the UW event on May 19th.
“I hope that what happens at the University of Washington can eventually be given to more student organizations across the nation to help their peers bloom, to touch lives similar to mine who are experiencing a mental health crisis, and show them that there is hope,” Wagner concludes.
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