July Newsletter part 2 - Teens' Inspiring Stories

July Newsletter part 2 - Teens' Inspiring Stories

Teens' Inspiring Stories

Thanks to Montgomery County Public Schools Student Service Learning staff!  MCPS has expedited approval for Tacy Foundation to facilitate Student Service Learning Hours at home during Quarantine. More than 85 new volunteers have joined the already busy veteran volunteers engaged in summer projects at home.  For a list of these, go to the website www.tacyfoundation.organd contact Anika Seth at volunteer.thetacyfoundation@gmail.com.  Soon children and teens will be preparing packets of  USBs to go to area hospitals:  Walter Reed, Holy Cross (3 hospitals), Shady Grove Adventist Healthcare, University of MD St. Joseph Medical Center, Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Frederick Memorial, Children’s National, and  Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation.  CD assembly projects are beginning today as well.  These will go locally to seniors’ facilities.

We thank NIH for featuring Tacy Foundation youth!  Every  Sunday morning, the Patient Library presents virtual music programs throughout the Clinical Research Center.

For the 2nd consecutive week, we are featuring Rising Seniors, all of whom have taken leadership roles in the Foundation’s ongoing programs of Live Music for Seniors and Hospitals and Mentoring for Piano Pals®.  Each one has written his/her own story.  Here they are in alphabetical order:

Amber Briscoe

In January 2015, I was privileged to join the Tacy Foundation as a volunteer.

One of my most profound memories as a volunteer was the very first time I played piano at Shady Grove Hospital. I was sitting on the bench in the echoing lobby, watching the doctors, nurses and patients move through the hospital with subtle glances in my direction. I remembered feeling so nervous. I mustered the courage to press the keys and I began playing Bach’s Prelude in C major. When I had finished playing, I realized a small crowd of people had gathered to watch me play. Their warm smiles and applause showed me how much my playing had meant to them. I learned that music had the power to bring serenity, joy and healing even in a hospital, a place known for pain and suffering.  Being a part of the Tacy Foundation has given me the opportunity to use my unique gifts to make a difference in my community and I have been able to firsthand witness the joy music brings in the lives of others. 

Recently, I saw the Tacy Foundation’s “Design Cheerful Get-Well cards for patients” opportunity as part of the “Home-based volunteer projects during the COVID-19 quarantine” email newsletter.  My thoughts immediately ran to a time when my mother was admitted to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital to undergo emergency surgery. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was scheduled as a volunteer to play piano at the hospital. I shared the news with Ms. Charlotte and the other volunteers, and they encouraged me. They told me to let my mom know that they would be thinking of her and that they would play special music just for her. I felt so comforted and while we were waiting for our turns, some volunteers made a get well soon card and told me to give it to my mom. I was so appreciative and happy as I rushed upstairs to her room to give it to her. When I did, she looked at me and I could see her eyes lit up and a big smile came on her face. 

The memory is profoundly edged in my heart as it is in hers.  I have witnessed simple acts of kindness making powerful impacts, and this was evident every time I saw the smiling patients, staff, and guests listening to my music.  I thank the Tacy Foundation for giving me an opportunity to use my talents to service our local community and continue to make a meaningful impact!

Ethan Fang

My exceptional experience with the Tacy Foundation

Ethan Fang (Landon School)

I have taken piano lessons and played recitals since I was 7 years old. I learnt about the Tacy Foundation at 7th grade when my mom’s friend forwarded her a link to the Tacy Foundation and some information about its community service opportunities through music. I was right away attracted by the opportunity to play music for seniors, patients, and military veterans, and asked my mom to sign me up. I still remember the first time I met with Ms. Holiday when I was at the Shady Grove Hospital for my first “try-out”. I was nervous because I honestly did not know what it would be like to do community services by playing piano. I was a bit intimidated at first, looking at all these student musicians waiting anxiously for their turn to play at the grand piano sitting right in front of the entrance. Ms. Holiday patiently explained how this would work. Her soft voice and encouraging smile calmed me down. I played my first song and I felt great afterwards! My mom asked me on our way back if I like to continue. Without a hesitation, I said yes. Since then, I have played piano and hosted free concerts and taught piano with the Tacy Foundation.  It has been over 4 years since I became a lucky member of the big family of Tacy Foundation. I truly feel I have gained so much exceptional experiences from my involvements with Tacy Foundation. 

As a student musician at Shady Grove Hospital, Holy Cross Hospital, and various senior homes whenever I am available, and then also as a chief intern for Eden Home at Liberty Lane and Shady Grove Hospital. 

As a Chief Intern and student musician, I host and play at free concerts at senior homes (i.e., Eden Home in Bethesda and Potomac) and the Shady Groves Hospital during weekends and holidays. In this leadership role, I am responsible for performance site set-up and clean-up, working closely with senior home staff and the hospital front desk. I also organize student musicians at the concert to ensure the event runs in smooth, timely, and orderly fashion, and communicate with parents and answer their questions. 

Last Fall, I finally was able to become a piano-pal mentor when the piano-pal program opened weekend program. I had always wanted to be a piano mentor but at the time all such programs were operated after school during normal school days, so I was not able to attend because of my school mandatory sports activities after school. I was excited when the email about the new weekend piano pal opportunity came in

As a Piano-Pal Mentor, I give 1-hour piano lessons every Sunday to school children through the Montgomery County Housing Commission Piano-Pal Program for Economically Disadvantaged School Children. I teach up to three students each lesson. 

I like working with the Tacy Foundation, because this experience has let me realize I can use my musical skills to help people and make them happy. In the senior homes where I play and serve as a Chief Intern and a student musician, many seniors are in wheelchairs and quite frail. Their happiness when we play music warms my heart and gives meaning to my piano experience, better than anything else. 

As the Chief Intern, I can learn and practice how to lead a program, how to quickly solve unexpected problems, and how to effectively communicate with others to achieve specific goals. The Piano-Pal experience gives me the opportunity to work individually with children of low-wage parents to help them learn to express their musicality and find the joy that comes with playing piano. I also feel I benefit personally from this experience as I can pass on my piano skills and knowledge and I learn patience through working with young kids. Besides this, I feel more appreciative of the learning opportunities my parents have given me.   

I was very fortunate to be able to design the CD cover for the 2020 Music collection that was designated as a tribute to the US military and first responders during COVID-19. 

During the Covid-19 stay at home period and the subsequent summer, we cannot go out to perform these services as usual. Instead, the Tacy Foundation encourages us to continue supporting seniors through ‘Projects for Outreach to Seniors.’ I participated in this supporting effort by creating my own piano recordings that are then distributed to senior homes and by writing to seniors. These activities make me feel I am part of the efforts to fight this pandemic. 

I have learned from my experience with the Tacy Foundation that sharing the gift of music can change someone’s life.

Alena Lu

Ever since I began volunteering for the Tacy Foundation back in 2014, my outlook on music and life in general has changed substantially. Through hosting concerts as the Chief Intern of the Hebrew Home performances, recording CDs and sending them to COVID-19 first responders and patients, and performing at numerous senior centers and hospitals, I've learned to not only appreciate the gift of music, but also realize the importance of using my own passion to give back to the community. The Tacy Foundation has empowered me to share my love of music with those in need, and I will be forever grateful for these opportunities to spread hope to the community. 

I remember my first performance in the NIH atrium very clearly, as it's a memory that has stood out amongst the numerous other unforgettable experiences I've had with Mrs. Holliday and the Tacy Foundation. When I finished performing, many people came up to me, including a doctor. He told me that he was having an extremely stressful day, and that my music was able to help him relax and destress. This comment expanded my view of music as a whole, as I realized that the purpose of playing music is not only to compete or perform, but to share a universal language and express one's love and passion through a shared medium. The power of music to heal and restore is extraordinary, and it has been proven after every experience I've had with the Tacy Foundation. Whether it be seniors quietly humming and clapping along to the music being performed at their homes, or the countless smiles on faces of busy hospital workers while our performers play, the Tacy Foundation has spread an immense amount of joy to the community, and I am so honored to be part of such an amazing organization. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was able to record a CD with many pieces that I love and enjoy. With the help of Mr. Mike Engel and Mrs. Holliday, I was able to have these CDs shipped to First Responders in NYC, Fisher Houses nationwide, Indian Health Services in Arizona and New Mexico, the Navajo Nation, and Walter Reed among others. I'm beyond grateful for this opportunity to share my love for music to those who are in need, and to help them heal during these unprecedented times. The fact that I'm able to spread hope and joy to so many people nationwide makes me further appreciate all the work that the Tacy Foundation does, and I hope to inspire more people to believe in the power of music to restore and heal. 

Looking back on my years of service with the Tacy Foundation, the lessons I've learned from Mrs. Holliday, the seniors, and other volunteers will stick with me forever. I look forward to helping more people out in my last year with the organization, as well as working towards our common goal as musicians: to inspire hope, note by note. Thank you.

Tsach Mackey


My name is Tsach, and I am a Chief intern at the Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. In this brief testimonial, I wanted to share a bit about my experiences for the Tacy Foundation and why I am such an enthusiastic believer in its mission. 

I remember clearly the first time I played as a member of the Tacy Foundation. The weather could not have been more picturesque, but I barely noticed as I walked towards the lobby entrance. It wasn’t my first time performing in public, but I still felt nervous. With my stomach in knots, I walked through the sliding doors and into the lobby. 

I was greeted by a cheerful piano melody and an even more cheerful Mrs. Holiday. The warmth of her greeting and the genuine appreciation she expressed helped me relax and conquer my nerves that day. 

Mrs. Holiday’s kind welcome has stuck with me, and I try to impart it onto volunteers as best I can when serving as a Chief Intern. As a Chief Intern, I have had the privilege of being able to help volunteers overcome their nerves with words of encouragement and appreciation. Watching them grow as musicians and people through charity was something I loved about being a Chief Intern and one of the things I miss the most in quarantine. 

When I talk to other, newer, Chief Interns, (or Chief-Interns in training), I always try to emphasize how important that aspect of the job is, because although no words are expressed, somehow, playing music is one of the most vulnerable things you can do. Stages, spotlights, and other formalities are used not only to highlight musicians but also to comfort them by distancing them from the audience. In every performance I have done with the Tacy Foundation, the audience is visible, close and excruciatingly human. Opening up oneself in these environments is hard, and no one should have to do it alone. 

Although these environments may be the most nerve-wracking (I know they are for me), they are also the ones that I feel enable the deepest personal connections. 

One of my last performances before the virus hit was in a Senior home. Performing for them was more nerve-wracking than performing in the bigger venues I was used to, like hospitals and churches, but their smiles and their words of gratitude hit so much harder because they were just that much closer. I would give a short introduction to every piece, and afterwards, we would often talk about the piece --- they would ask questions about the composer, talk about what it reminded them of, or mention memories that came to their minds while listening to the music. While I played, I could see them tap their feet or move their heads to the beat. Seeing how the music brought out emotions and memories in the seniors was amazing and something I hope to be able to experience again soon. 

Not to get too philosophical, but I feel like the performances are a give-and-take. The more you put yourself out there, the more you give to the audience, the more you will get out of the experience. The biggest step forward is the first one, and I think that any young musician of any skill level should take the time to play for others, be it through the Tacy Foundation or not, as the experience will inevitably enrich both their lives and the lives of those they played for. 

I hope that my brief note has given some insight into the foundation for those who aren’t familiar with it and brought back good memories for those who are. I wish everyone who reads this a safe and healthy summer. 

Best, Tsach 

Abrar Sheikh

I have been volunteering for the Tacy Foundation since the fall of 2014, and started out by playing weekly at Shady Grove Hospital. I eventually began playing at other locations, such as Asbury, Sunrise Senior Center, and Holy Cross at Germantown. Additionally, I have performed at NIH. Furthermore, during the summer of 2018, I helped in alphabetizing old paperwork of the Tacy Foundation, and later helped in assembling the CDs. I have also done recordings four times- once in 2017, again in 2018, and twice in 2020. Throughout the process, I have entertained seniors and hospital patients, while becoming much more comfortable with performing, and by extension, public speaking.

It has been a wonderful experience to learn so much music, and I am very grateful to Mrs. Holliday and the Foundation for the improvement in my piano playing and community service during these years!

Thank you,

Abrar Sheikh

Julia Ting

Hi all, my name is Julia Ting, a rising senior at Northwest High School in Germantown, MD, and a member of the Tacy Foundation since kindergarten. Currently, I serve as the Chief Intern for recitals at Asbury Methodist Village, and as Chief Intern for Piano Pals at Gaithersburg Elementary, and Great Seneca Creek Elementary. I have previously served at Fox Chapel and Clopper Mill Elementary school.

Serving for the Tacy Foundation means more than just SSL credit. Throughout the years I have grown as a person, learned discipline and responsibility, but also a great care for the kids I teach, the seniors I announce to, and all my fellow volunteers. It is evident the passion we have all grown for the community.

During this pandemic, with the Piano Pals program cut short nearly two months, I have missed all the kids we teach very dearly. That is why I've decided to start the crafts for the Tacy Foundation quarantine project, which focuses right now on crocheting music note keychains for everyone apart of the Piano Pals program. 

I firmly believe in the impact of our presence in these children's lives. Although we don't know the struggles they may experience, being there every week for them will make a positive and lasting impression that they can carry on with them. I think these keychains will not only be a cute trinket to show off to their friends, but a reminder that as their mentors, we will always be there for them, be it in piano or through the trials and tribulations of growing up.

If anyone is interested in joining this project and how to get started, please email: crafts.thetacyfoundation@gmail.com

I am also open to new crafts ideas, so please don't be afraid to give suggestions!


Emily Wu

Here is the Message from Emily Wu to the Senior Facility Activity Director in Northern Virginia:

To the lovely seniors and staff at Arbor Terrace,

Thank you for always welcoming us into your home! Whenever we come to perform, I feel really grateful to be able to share music with you all, even if it’s only for one hour. Seeing you all enjoying the tunes is not an experience that everyone gets to have, and I am super grateful to be a part of it. Performing can be scary for me, and it’s really nice to have an audience that is so cheerful and so happy to listen to every performer. 

The staff deserves to be thanked as well! Thank you all for being so flexible and accommodating towards our needs. Also, thank you to Ms. Swann for coordinating our performances every month. The work you all do is really amazing!

I’m glad that we can share music together, and I hope you will continue to enjoy from the YouTube Playlist Live Music in these trying times. Hopefully we can come back and perform very soon! We are working on making videos of performances to send to you. Stay well and healthy! 

Thank you,

Emily Wu

                                          Emily Wu              Amy Tsou

Note from Charlotte H.:  Emily, Amy, and all of the Chief Interns and and their talented team of young musicians send their very best wishes for safety and well-being, for strength and courage to serve.  

Alison Boynton, Programs Manager for Seniors Live Music Events, has sent the YouTube link to connect to Videos of Live Music from the Tacy Foundation volunteers to stay close to their Seniors friends.

The response to this endeavor from children and teens has been most heartening.  Within days, we received enough videos from Virginia and Maryland to begin.  As I write this message to you in July, over 100 songs are now available on the Private Playlist for seniors.  Many more videos are coming to the Playlist for upload by the Teen Interns who are organizing this project.

It is our sincere desire to bring hope and healing to everyone at every facility.  The children and teens have expressed a great missing.  They are ready and enthusiastic to share with the seniors through emails messages, colorful artwork, and videos via YouTube until such time as they are able to return to their wonderful friends.

Ian Yu

Thank you so much for this inspiring and amazing message, what you and the organization you have created have done is nothing short of amazing. Prior to discovering the Tacy Foundation, I dedicated the majority of my musical talent and ability to playing in competitions and winning awards, something that most musicians grow doing and get used to. However, on Mother's Day a few years ago, one of our family friends who was set to perform in a retirement home was unable to attend and asked me to fill in for them at the performance. This event was my first experience with the Tacy Foundation and shortly afterwards, I joined the Piano Pals program and I have been doing that and performing at local hospitals/retirement homes since. Your organization has allowed me to use my talents to give back to the community while developing leadership and teamwork skills at the same time. I already have my college recommendation letters set so I will respectfully decline from asking you for a recommendation letter, but I still want to thank you for offering to write recommendation letters for me and all of the other rising seniors who are participating within the Tacy Foundation. I plan on returning to the Piano Pals program next year for my 3rd and final session and I hope everything with COVID-19 will be worked out by then. I wish you good health and I hope everything is well. Thank you again for everything you do.

Very Respectfully,

Ian Yu

There will be more Rising High School Seniors bringing their stories.  Look upon them with respect, gratitude, and love.  They are with us yet awhile.  Then they go to pursue their hearts’ desires, sending their hope into the world every day.  

Charlotte Holliday

Matthew Scot

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