December Newsletter 2021


Inspiring Hope!
December 2021
♩ Director’s Corner
As this December newsletter goes to print, Tacy Foundation youth continue to be as busy as elves -- playing live music every weekend; mentoring Title 1 children on Thursdays at Gaithersburg Elementary School in piano, guitar, and music theory; and delivering 1300 autumn cards to seniors’ facilities in time for Thanksgiving. The Cards Team, Mario Lara, Matthew Kim, and Riona Sheikh, and the Volunteer Supervisor, Ms. Karina Willis-Lara, are distributing 7000+ holiday cards to volunteers to write their personal messages to someone who needs encouragement. Four locations, Rockville, Clarksburg, and Germantown, MD and Centreville, VA are poised to save time and driving expense for the 750 volunteers who have joined the Foundation since COVID began in March 2020.

Holiday Projects

In addition to hands-on, time-sensitive projects, volunteers are creating videos for Reading Express, recording 45-minute music videos for hospitals and seniors, playing virtual recitals, assembling 600 USBs and 600 CDs for delivery to Quantico, VA for the Tree Lighting Event, to Andrews AFB, and to first responders’ children. Whether we see the youth in person or on the holiday video playlist, we sense their love. With their music and stories, they remind us to hope for the better times ahead. Tacy Foundation children are unrelentingly optimistic, generous, dedicated, visionary, respectful, and kind. When I feel the tug of missing of my loved ones at this season, I play the Foundation’s playlist (497 songs!). The musical embrace reminds me that we are all together for bettering the world.

Please enjoy the children’s work. Performers range from very young beginners to youth with advanced concert-level experience. All children are welcome to share their gift of music.  Remember that this playlist is PRIVATE. All permissions have been given with the stipulation that the songs not be used for monetary gain.  The link:
December projects focus on the holiday spirit -- live music and videos from past traditions for winter festivities and children’s holiday stories for the Reading Express Video Playlist. Thanks to her permission and blessing, Nancy Bo Flood’s books continue to be read by children and teens. Puzzle books, artwork, poems, and stories are all coming together for the community to relish. Teens and younger children are all reaching out to send the warmth and glow of the Christmas, Chanukkah, Diwali, and Kwanza spirit.
In the years that the Foundation has been serving the community (since 2009), the response to each request for volunteers truly warms my heart. The stories that follow are emerging as our kids move out in person to hospitals, seniors, an elementary school, and to each other. They, their parents and the dedicated volunteer staff are my heroes. Happy holidays to all of you who support us from a distance. Thank you for reading the newsletter each month and for writing and donating funds in support of our music, mentoring, and outreach to those who are less fortunate.
George Benskin Album

George Benskin has created a solo album called Someday. Now in college, George is a most remarkable talent and a most honorable young man. A Tacy Foundation volunteer since elementary school, George teaches Theory and Composition for the Foundation alongside Michael Tacy. He is donating the first 500 CDs/USBs to the Foundation for First Responders, Andrews AFB families, and Quantico Marine families for Christmas. George describes his music on the insert for his USB (see below). He has dedicated the album to The Tacy Foundation. We are most grateful! You can contact George with questions about its January 2022 release for streaming or comments at:

1. Prelude
2. Someday
3. Contemplations
4. The Fateful Hour
5. We’re All Mad Here
6. Entr’acte
7. We’re All Mad Here (Reprise)
8. Intermezzo
9. Someday (Reprise)
10. Postlude


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“Someday is not in hopes normalcy will return. It is about uncertainty and voyaging into the unknown with the only clear truth being that one’s cherished normalcy is gone forever. But it is also about more than that being the despairing end. Just because we may never be the same does not mean we will never get better. If I didn’t fully believe in that idea, I would have ended this set of pieces in minor. So I’d like to dedicate this album to everyone who perseveres into the unknown as long as they can in the hopes of getting better…someday.”
The Cards Projects

Three teens have been SO busy this fall organizing and contributing art to cards projects. Mario Lara, Matthew Kim, and Riona Sheikh, teen artists and philanthropists have masterminded the huge projects this year, supported by Karina Willis-Lara, adult volunteer supervisor. Congratulations!

Below are some of the cards that have been sent into the Cards Box (a large plastic box on the front porch of the volunteer’s home for pickup and delivery at all hours) in Rockville, organized in packets of 100, and distributed before Thanksgiving to 16 seniors’ facilities in Maryland and Virginia.

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The holiday cards will inspire those in 30 senior facilities, seven hospitals, first responders’ children, and service members. We extend our thanks also to Urbana High School’s Inspiring Music Club for contributing videos to the playlist library and cards for holiday distribution. In addition, Cornell University students sent cards that we delivered to Walter Reed Fisher Houses for Veterans Day. Community Service Manager Jennifer Hoang (a Tacy volunteer alumna) also had cards mailed in from Ithaca for the holiday distribution.

Gaithersburg Elementary School opened its doors to the Foundation’s Piano Pals afterschool program on November 11th. What a joyous occasion it was to see 18 children eagerly awaiting nine mentors for keyboard lessons. Two guitar mentors came to teach guitar lessons with those who wanted to try. Ethen Schenker began his Theory Class with a computer and keyboard to introduce piano and music language to the young children, who participated with rapt attention.  
Ms. Serpas (for the 9th year) and Ms. Lee returned this year to supervise, and Ms. Nguyen has stepped up to supervise as well.  


Piano Pals Mentors:
Daniel Serpas, Chief Intern (9th year at GES)
Ryan Nguyen, Co-chief Intern (5 years at GES)
Justin Foong, Assistant Chief intern (3rd year at GES)
Emily Le, Co-Chief Intern (6th year, formerly at Fox Chapel)
Lumina Zhang, Co-Assistant Chief Intern (1st year) Attendance Manager
Maia Petrov, Mentor (1st year)
Evin Fernando, Mentor (1st year)
Meicheng Song, Mentor (1st year)
Aurah Durjan, Mentor (1st year)
Rohan Krishnan, Mentor (1st year)
Kristoff Kurtz, Mentor (1st year)
Joanna Jacob, Substitute


Music Theory Chief Intern: 
Ethan Schenker

Guitar Pals Mentors:
Medhini Murali, Chief Intern of Guitar Pals
Ethan Margolin, Assistant Chief Intern of Guitar Pals

We thank the GES staff for their enthusiasm. Mr. Vallarino has spread the word and organized the rooms and arrangements for these classes. After the first class, three more children asked to join.
The Principal, Ms. Paula Summers, strongly supports music study for children and has expressed enthusiasm for this program. She played flute all the way through her school years and in college.  New to the school and unfamiliar with the Foundation, she is looking forward to a wonderful experience for her elementary school children. Donations to Piano Pals, which will go toward books, guitars, and T-shirts for each child, are welcome!

A Special Connection to the Other Side of the World
Zack Lam, a new volunteer, recently played at a monthly Live Music for Seniors event at the Friendship Heights Sunrise Senior Living in Chevy Chase, called Brighton Gardens. Many seniors in this large facility have enjoyed music and children throughout their lives. They always appreciate the Tacy Foundation volunteers when an event is scheduled on a weekend afternoon. Zack wrote the following lovely note to Mrs. Holliday:

I'm writing this email just to let you know how meaningful these projects have been.

As you might have heard a few weeks, ago my 93-year-old grandfather is living in assisted care in Hong Kong, but because of COVID I haven't been able to visit him.

However, this event brought me some semblance of comfort; I tried to imagine my grandfather in the crowd listening to me play, which I'm sure he would have loved. Participating in this foundation has made me realize how truly meaningful this project is, both to performers and seniors.
Thank you so much for this opportunity.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Return of Live Performances

In August 2020, amidst the pandemic, my brother and I brought an electric piano keyboard to the Shady Grove Rehabilitation Center to play an hour of outdoor music for the residents, most of whom were seniors. This was over a year ago, and there were no vaccines yet. We wrote our program on a large whiteboard for the audience of roughly 30 people to see. The concert was a success, and everyone enjoyed the music.

During the following 14 months, there were no concerts at the Shady Grove Rehabilitation Center. I had participated in some live-streamed concerts, and I imagine that some people had listened to them, but it felt almost like playing to an empty room. It was too easy to forget why I was playing. When the purpose is lost, the music can become bland and boring.

The news that live, in-person concerts were returning was very exciting for me, and I was all the more excited since I would be able to participate as a Chief Intern at Shady Grove. On November 6, 2021, four additional volunteers and I presented music ranging from classical to jazz and contemporary styles. The members of the audience loved the music. 


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After the last piece, a staff member asked the five of us to come talk to a woman who had listened to the music from another room. When we got there, she told us how much she enjoyed the music and that she had never heard live music as good as this before. I felt emotional and almost speechless. Her compliments reminded me of the transformative power of live music and the profound impact it can have on the listener. Even though technology allows music to be captured in a recording, live music will always shape a unique connection between the performer and the audience.

-- Dylan Schenker 

Performing in a Special Place

When you enter the NIH clinical center, you are in a fancy building with a seven-floor tall atrium. There is a nice, large coffee shop at one side and an elaborate gift shop at other side of the atrium. The walls are decorated with an exhibition of paintings. There are pictures of former presidents visiting NIH. A beautiful Steinway grand piano is staged in the middle of the atrium. Each floor from the atrium extends into medical wards. When there is music, it fills up the entire place due to the vast openness. It is an impressive building, but there is so much more to this place. The best doctors and researchers in the world fight to save the lives not only of current NIH patients, some after various unsuccessful treatments elsewhere, but also all people with incurable diseases. There is so much pride in the eyes of everyone who works there but also much emotional and physical pain in the air. 

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I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to play my music in such an extraordinary hospital and ease the anxiety of the patients, their loved ones, and the very hardworking medical and research staff. I thank the Tacy Foundation for providing this priceless experience to me.  -- Alisa Yonter
A Testimony

My name is Justin Foong. I am 13 years old, and I am an 8th grader in Neelsville Middle School. I love listening to music and playing video games. I’ve been learning piano since the first grade. At the start I didn’t really like to play the piano, but now I have progressed and have come to realize that I can play the songs that I enjoy listening to. Now I am learning how to play a song from one of my favorite video games, Hollow Knight. 

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My piano teacher is Mrs. Holliday, and she’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. She has taught me a lot, including how to give back to my community using my musical talent. She is also the one who told me about Piano Pals, a group that teaches students who can’t afford piano lessons, and Asbury, a senior living home. In Piano Pals we teach students in elementary schools how to play piano; I have been teaching in Gaithersburg Elementary School for two years. Asbury is where I played in public for the first time, and from that experience I learned that I could play piano for seniors. During the pandemic I discovered that I enjoy teaching both students and seniors how to play advanced-level piano.

My favorite subjects in school are computer science, engineering, PE and history. Learning music has helped me in school by improving my memory so I can memorize the work in my subjects faster. I am adjusting to in-person classes nicely. It is similar to school in the past, but everyone has to wear masks. The return to school hasn’t impacted my practice time, but it has allowed me to socialize with my friends in person. I have also found that I can learn and focus better when attending classes in person. Adapting to Covid has changed my life because I have had to isolate myself for the past 18 months and learn how to take classes online. Music has helped me get through this difficult time, and I was able to use my passion in a meaningful manner to give back to the community. -- Justin Foong
Little Charlotte and the Piano

As described in previous newsletters, Tacy Foundation Director Charlotte Tacy Holliday has written a book on the benefits of music for children. Please consider purchasing the book for yourself or as a holiday present. The link below is the official notice of a new audio book. 

Printed copies of Little Charlotte and the Piano are available from the Amazon, Barnes, and Apple libraries.

Educational Mission:
Foster youth development through music, story and mentoring

Philanthropic Mission:
Empower youth to discover and use their gifts in service to others

Social Mission:
Build community partnerships and create intergenerational connections

Whom We Serve




Service members



Economically disadvantaged

Individuals who want to serve


How We Serve (Programs)

Live music concerts

Reading Express®

Piano Pals®

Guitar Pals®

Composers’ Circle

Music USBs

Musical equipment

COVID projects through video, email, cards, puzzles for outreach to the community

Charlotte Holliday, Founder and Executive Director

Matthew D. Scott, Graphic Editor

Michael Favin, Chief Editor

Siddharth Kondam, Teen Editor

Ethan Schenker, Teen Editor

Donations are appreciated.  All adult and teen staff are volunteers.  No salaries or benefits. Every dollar you donate goes to supplies for all projects offered to the community.  

Thank you!  

Donate online via PayPal at:

Or send your donation to: 

The Tacy Foundation 

Box 2334

Germantown, Maryland 20875

Ask to donate a portion of your order to The Tacy Foundation.  The Foundation will receive a small percentage of your purchases.  A very easy way to donate at no additional cost to you!
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