March 2022 Newsletter

Inspiring Hope
March 2022

♩ Director’s Corner

My daughter gently reminds me to be open to new ideas, practices, and music, and adapt as the world changes. Her encouragement took on new meaning when Covid arrived suddenly two years ago. 

Most assuredly, I was consumed by the almost impossible hurdles before us. Discovering paths of service for the all-volunteer Tacy Foundation youth challenged the entire network of our services. Because we were no longer able to bring live music to facilities and Piano Pals/Guitar Pals to afterschool locations, all live events would have to be suspended until we could create safe, viable, and meaningful alternatives.  

A remarkable transformation occurred. College alums and high school volunteers provided extraordinary ideas for projects, such as video music playlists, video books for children, handmade cards, coloring books, puzzles, collections of magazines and small items for seniors, sending emails to them……and on and on. 

I listened, wondering how to keep my heart from breaking from the abrupt silence and empty public places in our lives. Each step of the way, though, I experienced miracles of the resilience of the human spirit. Day after day, buoyed by teens’ ingenuity, technology, musicianship, art, messages of encouragement to others, their generous parents, and our remarkable activity directors, we set sail for the uncharted course ahead of us. The journey has stretched from two months to 6 months, 8, 12, 18….and on.

Twenty-four months into Covid, we all are still adapting to a life of caution and partial seclusion. Our hope for recovery grows stronger and brighter. Not knowing the outcome, we have practiced faith along with our music and stories, with the intention of inspiring hope in all who see and hear. We are well aware that there are many in harm’s way daily--those in hospitals on the front lines of the medical community, those who have lost their livelihood, teachers and parents dealing with children….and the list goes on. Nonetheless, we all walk together with hope in our hearts. 

Reaching out to others from the safety of our homes in 2020, we grew stronger and more purposeful. Several volunteers received the President’s Volunteer Service Award Gold medals after 100 hours of service in a year’s time; and others a Silver President’s Volunteer Service Award for 50 hours of charitable work. Valentine weekend we hosted six live music events in MD and VA. During the week, we: 
  • delivered thank you cards to teachers, 

  • resumed Piano Pals at Gaithersburg Elementary School, 

  • recorded music for the growing 2nd video playlist 2021-2022, 

  • added new stories for the Reading Express playlist, and 

  • were delighted that one of our elementary school volunteers was awarded a Silver President’s Volunteer Service Award for 50 hours of charitable work. 

Thank you all for your optimism, compassion, and perseverance!

The latest nudge from my daughter to continue learning came a week ago in a text message. She sent the beautiful video and story of Ruth Slenczynska, concert pianist. Click the link below to hear her story of music and generosity. My daughter did not know that I met Professor Slenczynska 50 years ago in St. Louis at Illinois State University on my way to a global conference. She was my high school friend’s professor at the university. My friend arranged a visit at her home to show me what a superb person and pianist she was. The visit was more than I could have imagined. After playing the Revolutionary Etude with amazing passion, she brought us tea and kindly and humbly expressed interest in my life, hardly mentioning anything about herself.  
I extend to our youth and their families this remarkable joyful message from Ms. Slenczynska as she launches a new project in her 97th year. How I wish she could meet all of you and see the joy you bring others! 
In the last few days, the world changed in the blink of an eye. We pray for courage, strength, and protection of the Ukrainian people and the innocent Russian people who are caught in an unimaginably brutal military conflict.
A note from the newsletter editor: Like many other Americans, I am very upset about the Russian invasion but feel quite helpless to do anything useful. And like many Americans, I have a connection with Ukraine. My grandfather immigrated to the U.S. from southern Ukraine (then Russia) in 1913, followed by three of his 11(!) brothers in subsequent years. I've been to Ukraine twice, in 2012 and 2013, to work on their immunization program. I see scenes on the news of places where I spent time in Kiev and Lvov, and of course wonder about the people I worked with.

Piano Pals, Guitar Pals, and Music Theory

at Gaithersburg Elementary School (GES)

Every Thursday, teens dash from their schools in Bethesda, Clarksburg, Gaithersburg, North Potomac, Rockville, Germantown, Boyds, and Damascus to meet their young music pals at GES. They are all philanthropists and heroes!

The extraordinary volunteers who organize, greet the children, teach, and return the rooms to their original order are:

1. Volunteer Adult Site Supervisors: Ms. Pam Nguyen and Ms. April Lee
2. Chief Interns: Ryan Nguyen, Emily Le, Justin Foong, Ethan Margolin (Guitar)
3.  Administrative assistant: Lumina Zhang 
4.  Music Theory Program and Chief Intern: Ethan Schenker 
5.  Mentors: Maia Petrov, Evin Fernando, Davide Barbero, Rohan Krishnan, Aurah Durjan (substitute/part time until next year)

Front Row, left to right:  Evin Fernando, Maia Petrov, Emily Le, Lumina Zhang, Ethan Margolin

Back Row: left to right: Davide Barbero, Ethan Schenker, Justin Foong, Rohan Krishnan

Each week the teens set up the keyboards and guitars and Music Theory books/flash cards as the children have their snack in the cafeteria.
Piano Pals set up

At 3:45 the children enter the school's music room. After Lumina takes attendance, Piano Mentors take their first student to the room down the hall for piano lessons. Guitar Mentors take their students to the other music room across the hall for Guitar Lessons. The other half of the students stay in the main room with Ethan Schenker for Music Theory. While their friends are learning music from the same chapters on the keyboards, these children learn music theory in the matching chapters from Faber Piano Adventures Primer Books. Ethan incorporates games and flashcard recognition for fun.

Music theory

Half an hour later, the first groups return to the main room.  Piano and guitar mentors take their second student to the keyboard or guitar locations. The other half remain for their Music Theory lesson. 

All children are between 1st and 5th grades. Some do not speak English. Some are new arrivals and are making their way in America. All want to study music!

Guitar Lessons
At dismissal time, Ms. Nguyen escorts all children to the large door to meet their parents. She stays there until each child has been placed in the care of a parent. The rest of the team work with Ms. Lee and Chief Interns to return all instruments to the storage area in the music room, pack up books, batteries, guitars, and wristbands (signifying completion of a chapter) and games. They leave, homeward bound, at 5:15 after a whirlwind afternoon at Gaithersburg ES.
Piano Lessons

Covid has brought significant challenges to all of our lives, to be sure. The children and teens here remind all of us of the powerful gifts of music and of hope for healing. This school is the first to re-open Piano Pals with great attention to caution in the storm of life. After serving Gaithersburg for nine years before the pandemic, the Foundation is so happy to return with such an energetic team of teens. Their dedication affords a very positive experience for the young children. The talented teens now have the opportunity to offer music instruction to underserved children who cannot afford lessons. The children learn to play actual music by reading music notation. We thank Faber Piano Adventures for their strategic, charitable role in this program. They have donated all of the books that we have used since Piano Pals began. They have also provided excellent online tools for training Piano Pals Mentors.

We extend a warm thank you to Ms. Futrowsky for her nine years of organizing and coordinating the school staff side of Piano Pals, a tremendous support for this program. She served under the visionary direction of two principals, Ms. Stephanie Brant and Ms. Meredith McNerney. It was Ms. Futrowsky's high regard, approval, and recommendation in the fall of 2021 that set Piano Pals in motion again in November. The new principal herself, Ms. Summers, is a lifelong musician. She knows music's intrinsic value to lifelong learning.

We thank the magnanimous staff for their support of all Gaithersburg Elementary School's families! The school administration: Ms. Summers, Principal; Mr. Vallarino, Staff Coordinator who now carries forward the work that Ms. Futrowsky began; Ms. McCaffrey, Ms. Ryan and Ms. Perez, front office staff; music teachers whose rooms we borrow, Ms. Baldoni and Ms. McCarty, and the 4th grade teacher who donates her room. We always say a thank you to the custodial staff too. They do their very best to see that we are safe and have everything that we need.

All of the volunteers and donors of The Tacy Foundation are part of this outreach.  Thank you always!

Note of Appreciation

Cindy Liu, Adult Site Supervisor of Hunters Woods at Trails Edge in Reston, VA, kindly sent the following email message to Mrs. Holliday about a recent live performance:  

Thanks so much for your call last Sunday. Wilson and Jessica really like this program and are glad to contribute to their community through music.

We're always touched when the seniors say, "thank you," and give the kids a big hand after every concert. The kids always come early and leave late at every concert, so they can have more chances to talk with the seniors. The seniors not only enjoy the music that the kids perform, but also the conversation between the two generations. I'm also touched that the seniors even remember the kids' names. It is really not an easy thing for this age group.

Thanks again for providing this great opportunity for the kids and the seniors. You’re our hero.

Former chief Intern Hana Wang (Left), Amy Tsou (right) attended the Live Music at Hunters Woods at Trails Edge last summer before they headed to the university. It was the first in-person Live Music at Hunters Woods during the pandemic period.
Left to right: Pranav Griddaluri, Melissa Brown, Jessica Chen, Matthew Kim, Meicheng Song,
Ella Tzend, Wilson Chen
Santa Claus (Jessica Chen, left) and Wilson Chen (right) came to the Live Music.

Below is a link to an interesting article on the effect of music on the brain, more specifically on how musical training is linked to improved speech and language capabilities: 

A Performer’s Reflections
Over the last few years, I have often performed at Tacy Foundation recitals at different assisted-living centers. Performing classical music at the venues is fun because everyone there enjoys listening to classical music. I play the piano, but I also enjoy listening to the other performances. Most of my performances have been at the Great Falls Brightview assisted-living center, and I have been going there for more than five years, most recently on January 22. This has been a great opportunity to interact with the people at the assisted living center. They are always positive and complimentary and often share their own experiences about classical music. I am grateful for the opportunity that the Tacy Foundation gives me to perform there. -- Nicole Papenfuss
From left to right: Christopher Papenfuss, Nicole Papenfuss, Alisa Yonter, and Ella Tzeng.
Quick Thinking (and Talent) Save the Day

On the Sunday of President’s Day weekend, five volunteers played music for seniors at Kindley Assisted Living in Gaithersburg. Although these seniors have been hearing youth play music every month for many years, this weekend’s performance was just little different. 

This time, a test of courage to lead came about quite suddenly. The five who came were expecting a seasoned high school student to handle everything. The leader could not get there for the event, but no one there knew this. 

When no such leader appeared, the students were very surprised! They were not prepared to make an introduction, announce themselves, and plan how to carry out the usual polished presentation.

Left to right: Aiden Paul, Caleb Dastrup, Caden Wang, Yulania Wang, Jessica Afuang. The Baldwin grand piano played in the performance was donated in August 2019 by Jon Mathis, Tacy Foundation Board Member, the summer before COVID stopped all live music for one year.

The value of learning leadership became very apparent in the blink of an eye. With poise and courage, the teens overcame the absence of their anticipated leader and presented an hour’s program with beauty and polish. They played all the styles and levels anticipated. 

These are heroes, just as their audience had giants among them who built our community over the past 80 years. They have celebrated every President’s Day since Franklin Roosevelt. They served in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, and the Iraq War; and survived market crashes, the Great Depression, September 11, 2001, Katrina, fires, floods, family illnesses, job losses, and many hard years and challenges. They are the ones who can share special insights on what it takes to survive Covid and then thrive. They have shown us by their lives and their work that we will make it together as they have for generations.

The kids were so impressed by the living history in each resident. The oldest teen could remember his first President as President George W. Bush. If only we had been able to hear the stories of these seasoned seniors. Imagine what we would learn from them about hard work, courage, integrity, and compassion. Maybe we will……maybe some teens will follow up with interviews and write the legacy of the deep well of love, hope, honor, and integrity that resides in our senior friends.

Composer's Circle
Composer's Circle is going stronger than ever with our young musicians continuing to inspire creativity in themselves and others with their beautiful music.

Two of our artists collaborated to create this audio and video combination. Roy Fischman composed the music, and Lumina Zhang created the video. Roy is a talented and prolific composer of electronic music, and Lumina is assisting the Tacy Foundation by volunteering as an intern for Michael Tacy and the Composer's Circle.

Here is the stunning video and music:
A note from Lumina: Hi, I'm Lumina Zhang, an aspiring composer and intern for Composer's Circle. Composer’s Circle has been an incredible experience, and I really enjoy sharing my love of music with others through creating music myself. In the past, I have written an invention, a sonata, and I am currently working on a pop song.
Lumina Zhang

The Tacy Foundation

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

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