Recovering musicians bring free concerts to special needs facilities

A group of musicians in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction are using their talents to spread a little love. 

Carl Schmid learned the power of music at a very young age. “So I started playing at three years old. My parents gave me a violin, I was semiprofessional by 10, played Carnegie Hall at 13,” Schmid said.

But even in a world surrounded by music, there was one thing Carl couldn't find the power to overcome. “Got introduced to some substances and just kind of quickly fell in love with it from there,” said Schmid.  

More than 15 treatment centers later, it started to look like he would lose his battle with addiction and with it his musical talent. “I don't think I ever lost my passion for music, but I lost the ability to play it and I lost the connection that I feel playing music when I'm sober,” Schmid said.  

Carl gave it one more try 16 months ago.

This time at Austin treatment facility, Recovery Unplugged.

There he picked up his violin again and this time it felt different. 

“Just sort of heals the heart from years of suffering,” said Schmid. 

When he was two weeks sober, Carl started reaching out to adult daycare facilities in North Austin and volunteering to play free concerts. That’s how the Grace Notes Project began. 

“The grace note in classical music is an often overlooked symbol, but it's essential to the integrity of the music, and I think often addicts and alcoholics are overlooked and misunderstood,” Schmid said.  

The nonprofit partners with five elderly and special needs care facilities to provide free live music to those who aren't able to get out and enjoy it on their own. “When I did my first outreach, I think it was maybe the first time in my life that I really felt love, like, really tangibly felt love and connection, and it just really occurred to me that this is something special that we can do,” said Schmid.  

About 20 musicians have signed on to play. The majority of them also in recovery. 

“I was just a very broken person when I got to Austin and he showed me there’s a way. There's a way to make a life for yourself that's fun and exciting and gives me a reason to stay sober today,” said Richard Wall, who plays the drums for the Grace Notes Project.  

Each performance brings a new understanding of the power of music and with it the power to inspire. “They mean a lot to me. They encourage me to sing, they encourage me not to give up on my dreams,” said Brandon Pope, a client at the Bona Terra Dayhab.