In 2020, the parents of Eric Domanico created a foundation to honor the life of their son as well as provide mental health resources to musicians in need.
The late WVU student and saxophonist took his own life in the summer of 2020.
“He was loved by everyone,” said Ash Elswick, WVU student and close friend of Domanico. “He lit up a room when he walked in.”
Domanico was recognized for his talents, earning a full ride scholarship to WVU as a member of the marching band and a student in the School of Music.
Entering WVU as a freshman, Domanico had a bright future but struggled with his mental health.
At the height of the pandemic, Domanico’s fight with mental health became more challenging, and he took his own life in July 2020.
Elswick, along with Domanico’s friends and family, wanted to carry on Domanico’s legacy. The Eric Domanico Foundation was born, focusing on the mental health of musicians and those in creative arts.
“Creative students usually do tend to have more of a sensitive, emotional side because they’re in the arts, expressing themselves in that sort of outlet,” said Elswick who serves as the foundation’s public policy advocate. “There are studies that show that musicians are more sensitive when it comes to mental health.”
While the foundation has primarily focused on fundraisers to give back to music students, they have recently shifted their focus to raising awareness of depression and suicide rates, calling it “mental wellness.”
“We are trying to instill programs in K-12 schools and colleges to teach you how to handle anxiety, and just bring more awareness,” Elswick said. “We are working with people in the state legislature to help them write bills to advocate for mental health and have programs in schools.”
The foundation also runs social media campaigns to raise awareness and bring together musicians from around the world.
The hashtag #PlayWithEric has been a large contributor to their fundraising while shining a spotlight on the art of saxophone.
Jeffrey Siegfried, assistant professor of saxophone at WVU, was responsible for the idea of the movement.
Saxophonists from all over the world submitted videos playing “Irish Tune from County Derry”, a piece that Domanico played in his saxophone quartet. You can find the piece here.
“Eric Domanico was a remarkable, kind, funny, intelligent, and caring young man who studied saxophone at WVU,” said Siegfried. “The Eric Domanico Foundation came together to commemorate his life with a collaborative music video involving all the saxophonists whose lives he touched and others whose lives he would have touched had he lived.”
Along with the #PlayWithEric movement, the foundation hosted a concert in 2020 to raise funds. Their website, www.playwitheric.com, features a link to their GoFundMe, as well as other resources to make donations and volunteer.
The website also features several resources for those struggling with mental health.
It highlights resources specifically for musicians’ well-being, like the Music Minds Matter organization.
Eric’s passion for music is evident in the legacy he left behind. One of his legacies is his Spotify account. Although he had numerous playlists, one remains the favorite of his friends and family.
“Before he passed, he changed the bio to ‘Positive Vibes Only’… it kind of just became a thing,” said Elwick. “He loved music, listened to everything. It’s 57 hours long.”
The playlists can be listened to here.
The Eric Domanico Foundation gives scholarships to musicians on college campuses across the country.
For information about the 2022 scholarship award, go to www.playwitheric.com.