October 2023 Newsletter

October 2023

The Tacy Foundation empowers children and teens to share hope and joy with hospital patients, military veterans, senior citizens, and disadvantaged youth through performances, music recording projects, and music mentoring programs.

Check out the music we’re making!

Director’s Corner

Happy Holidays to all those whose celebrations fall in September and October! We encourage all musicians to learn seasonal and holiday music for those whose advanced years are greatly enriched by the music of their family and youth.


We proudly present videos of the two live benefit concerts that were organized in September in response to the devastating wildfires in Maui, Hawaii. Please enjoy the video links to the Maui Benefit Concerts in Maryland and Virginia. The passion, beauty, and sincerity of these young musicians will remind us all of the great power through the arts to lift the souls of those in great need. These youth and their families are amazing!

Watch the Virginia Benefit Concert!
Watch the Maryland Benefit Concert!

Young Composer Spotlight

Michael Tacy, Lumina Zhang, and Roy Fischman

The Featured Composers this month are Roy Fischman and Lumina Zhang who have collaborated once again to produce this amazing music video. The Music was written and Produced by Roy Fischman and the Video was produced by Lumina Zhang.


The Song is called “The Visitor” and Roy claims he wrote it about “Something out there watching us”


Hope you enjoy this amazing musical production!

The Visitor by Roy Fischman

Performances at Hebrew Home Landow House

Hali Duong

As a new Tacy Foundation Chief Intern, performing for our audiences at Hebrew Home Landow House has become the highlight of each month. I began volunteering at the Tacy Foundation a few years ago and was immediately drawn to the special atmosphere. Hearing the elderly listeners’ murmurs of excitement and seeing their faces truly makes my day. From the trumpet to the bass, Tacy Foundation volunteers bring an array of instruments to Landow House each month.


This past month, I and several other young volunteers performed for a passionate and engaged audience. One woman was so touched by our music, she began to grow emotional. She thanked all our volunteers and their parents, telling us about how delighted she was to hear us play and how much of an impact our performances had. Having this remarkable experience truly showed me how connected people are to the music our teens play.

Left to right: Charlotte Yeung, Yunyi Ling, Christopher Yeung, Hali Duong, Yanqi Chen, Chloe Kim

“[Music] gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” – Plato

Unlike our eyes which can shutter out discriminating visions, our ears are always opened and tuned into our environment. The voice was the first accessible musical instrument used by our ancestors, and this power that generates from within our bodies has been used as a vital tool to curing what ails us.


Music major Karina Colon shares the exciting news with her parents of her involvement with the “Grief Choir” at her college (TWU).  At the Texas Women’s University, she joins professor Lauren DiMaio and a small group of women to create a singing ensemble to help those trying to overcome depression through the cathartic experience of singing in a group.  The choir and its repertoire are designed for alleviating the intense mourning of its members, especially those who have experienced losses of loved ones. Emotional music tends to be soothing to those in grief, and more so when it is sung together. Music therapists explain this effect, reasoning that the combination of the tonal component of the songs along with having the support of a group offers the grievers a sense of empathy and understanding.  DiMaio not only sees musical therapy as a way for people to recover from tragedies, but also as a treatment that can heal beyond the spiritual and emotional realms.  


Formal music therapy was first used in 1945 by the United States War Department in Army hospitals to treat military service members (Cleveland Clinic).  Its use has been limited until recent years when many researchers have found new interests in an old approach to neuro-medicine and musical healing.  Traditionally administered through the ears, passive listening is now often combined with a more active approach in therapeutic remedy to include movement, lyrical analysis, composition ideation, and instrument playing.  Music therapy, particularly when integrated with medication, psychotherapy or other interventions, is becoming an increasingly accepted part of a patient’s treatment plan.


Although the medical community has begun to recognize the potential curative powers of music, few studies have examined the reasons behind such effects and under what conditions it can be optimized.  Nevertheless, the research that has been conducted has yielded enough promising results to warrant further explorations.  Using MRI and PET scanners to capture images, scientists have been analyzing the brain activities of people performing various undertakings such as math and visual arts (TED). They have discovered that different parts of the brain are utilized for specific tasks. For example, the parietal lobe is triggered during computation while the hippocampus is responsible for memory recall (UCF). But when neuroscientists analyzed MRI images of participants listening to music, they discovered that just a simple vibration in one’s ear – what the brain processes as a beautiful song – lights up and connects multiple parts of the cerebrum.


Even more of note, while scientists have likened the listening of music to a “backyard firework” in the brain, they compared playing an instrument to a “jubilee”.  The difference between passively listening to a song versus playing the same song on an instrument is that the active participation not only engages the auditory and visual cortices, but also the fine motor dexterity controlled by both hemispheres of the brain.  The bundle of fibers of the part of the brain that bridges the musician’s two sides have been shown to be denser and larger than their non-musical counterparts.  Studies have suggested that playing an instrument, particularly when starting prior to the age of 7, could rewire our brains to be more nimble.  Playing an instrument, one’s brain becomes adept with leveraging the separate functions of each hemisphere to work together (LA Times).  


Because the different elements that make up a song, such as pitch, rhythm, harmony and melodies, engage in many of the same parts of the brain that also control speech, decision making, memory, movement and socialization, Harvard University neurologist Gottfried Schlaug believes that music therapy can “provide an alternative entry point” to access the injured or neurodivergent brain.


For stroke victims who suffer from aphasia, incorporating a form of singing that sounds much like a Gregorian chant into their speech therapy has helped develop the patients’ verbal fluency (LA Times).  Schlaug hypothesizes that the “melodic intonation therapy” involved in the chanting reroutes around the damaged speech part of the left hemisphere to engage and train the right hemisphere in word acquisition.  


Further, an Israeli study has found that premature babies who listened to at least 30 minutes of Mozart over a span of two days had positive weight gain (NIH).  The music had reduced their resting energy expenditure and slowed their metabolism, to allow for the infants in the neonatal intensive care units to have increased growth.


Music therapy has also played an increasing role in helping those with movement disorders.  “With rhythm, we can help a person with Parkison’s.  They may walk without music, but they shuffle and can’t get going.  With rhythm and with training, they can increase their gait and decrease their pausing.  That also applies to people with strokes or brain injuries,” said Julie Guy, the chief operations officer of the Music Therapy Center in California (Tribune).


Using the steady and predictable tempo of the music, the brain can entice the motor regions to initiate and sustain a gait (LA Times).  A 2021 preliminary trial made up of 24 Parkison’s Disease patients conducted with MedRhythms, a company dedicated to helping those with neurological disease and injuries, attempted to synchronize the patient’s walking pattern to musical cadence (Parkinson’s News Today).  The treatment involves placing sensors in the patients’ shoes to measure initial patterns in gait. From a library playlist, the proprietary software then selects the songs with rhythms that it deemed most beneficial to synchronize with the patient’s gait using the science principles of rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS).  Results indicated gains in functional mobility, walking endurance, and motor difficulties after 28 days.

“It works well and it works instantaneously, and it’s hard to think of any medication that has this effect,” says Schlaug (LA Times).


And for patients who cannot tolerate medication such as some sufferers of dementia, drugs can have profound side effects that degenerates heart health or even shortens lives.  Having an alternative to medication that does not have adverse cross reactions is an alternative that music therapy has offered.  A 12-week interventional study, “Musical Bridges to Memory,” published in Dec. 2022 in the journal, Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders, provides insights into how songs played from the patient’s younger years can unlock forgotten autobiographical memories in order to cajole the dementia patients out of their isolation (LWW).  Researchers have reported that nonverbal social interactions had significantly increased for those who participated in the program.


“You’re accessing different parts of the brain that may not be affected by the disease’s symptoms,” Sam Fanzio, senior director for quality care and psychosocial research for the Alzheimer’s Association, told US News & World Report (New York Post).


“That means memories associated with music are emotional memories, which never fade out — even in Alzheimer’s patients,” explains University of Central Florida neuroscientist Kiminobu Sugya (UCF).


Despite the plethora of advantages shown with music on the human brain, new research has unraveled adverse findings that merit further scrutiny of the benefits of music therapy.


“Applying music therapy without this consideration might cause more harm than good,” says Melita Belgrave, a music therapy professor at Arizona State University in Tempe. “If you’re using music, you can do harm if you’re not paying attention.” (Washington Post)


Researchers Manuel Gonzalez and John Aiello documented the conflicting effects of background music on students’ performance in their 2019 study, “More than meets the ear: Investigating how music affects cognitive task performance” (APA).  The findings suggest that how well music can serve a student is ultimately based on individualized factors, and that choosing the right kind of background sound is like the Goldilocks conundrum – too much or too little musical stimulation for the specific task can result in suboptimal yield.  Gonzalez and Aiello examined more sophisticated variables in their research.  The first variable is the complexity of music, whether it is silent, simple with a singular instrument, or complex with multiple instruments.  The second variable tweaked was the cognitive intensity of the task, whether it is easy with a search for the letter “A” from a word list, or more challenging like remembering word pairs.  The last variable is the personality of the participant, which is rated using the Boredom Proneness Scale (NIH).  Results resoundingly indicate that a one size solution does not fit for the different learner types.  People, who easily get bored and consequently seek out external stimulation to compensate, scored far worse on both easy and challenging tasks when complex music was played as compared to when they were conducting them in silence.  In contrast, those with lower needs for external stimulation benefited, in some cases significantly, with the use of any complexity of music when undertaking both easy and challenging tasks.  This concept follows closely with psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s Cognitive-Capacity model, which suggests that the brain has a finite information processing ceiling, much like that of a computer.  When parallel tasks tap into the same resource and demand exceeds supply, capacity interference is observed.  It can be extrapolated that even low need learners might struggle in more extreme cognitive challenges that require more intense concentration as they would reach their cerebral capacity processing limits.


A similar 2015 study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) confers similar findings that different music should serve different learner needs (NIH).  54 non-musicians were challenged with face encoding memory tasks while being exposed to background noises, including “joyful” and “emotional” music, rain, and silence.  Blood pressure and heart rates were measured before and after exposures.  At the end of the “sound session,” the group that had listened to emotional music had elevated hemodynamic parameters and achieved higher scores with their memory tasks.  While rain and joyful music solicited faster response times for facial recognition challenges, these background noises also yielded the worst memory recall scores from the participants.  This suggests that listening to music that is emotionally charged can stimulate the audiovisual encoding that helps in fortifying the non-musician’s brain at memory tasks.  In contrast, rain and joyful composition pieces overload the perceptual channels and interfere with the participants’ ability to perform similar tasks.  


Unlike upbeat lyrical and synthesized bass music that can serve to energize and motivate trained athletes at the gym or on their daily jogs, the results of recent studies suggest that discerning consideration is needed in selecting music for classrooms and office settings.  Music choices are personalized not only to the listener but to the task involved.  This could play a significant role in their performance, as teens should not be so quick to blast on their favorite OneRepublic soundtrack while studying for their U.S. History unit test.  


Music is such a simple and accessible entertainment that can be leveraged to improve one’s well-being or to gain a cognitive edge by integrating it more effectively into one’s daily life.  Playing an instrument offers what researchers call a “full-body workout for the brain.”  One could try listening to soothing songs when finding catharsis, to upbeat tunes for energy, lofi for creativity, or Mozart for inspiration.  The noninvasive neuroprotective nature of sound strummed aloud at a decibel that vibrates a harmonious pitch and tapped to a specific tempo can have the potency as effective as a painkiller to a sick patient in the Intensive Care Unit (Washington Post).  Yet, the medical community has not been able to leverage its uses in more pervasive ways as many unanswered questions are still awaiting further research.  The variation in music, its application on diseases and its interplay with the diverse listening population make it difficult to define a one-stop-shop solution.  What constitutes a joyous or emotional melody to one person is perceived differently not only through biological differences but also through a cultural divide.  The permutations of the factors at play seem as varied as the human DNA.  


Like the unexplored limits of our brain, we have yet to scratch the surface of the curative powers and the possibility that music plays in our lives.


A Rewarding Summer Internship Experience at Brighton Gardens

Sean Wang

I am a high school sophomore who has been volunteering with the Tacy Foundation since I was in the 6th grade. Mostly, I played piano and violin for patients and the elderly in hospitals or nursing homes. Last summer, my sister Katie and I got a chance to do a summer internship for two months at Brighton Gardens of Friendship Heights. We wanted to offer something different from the regular performances on the weekends. Eventually we came up with the idea of “Sean and Katie’s Musical Hour,” which turned out to be a success. The seniors, and even the staff, loved our programs and wanted us to come back this summer. Both Katie and I were very excited about this opportunity. After discussing with Ms. Holliday and Ms. Adams, the coordinator of Brighton Gardens of Friendship Heights, we were fortunate enough to be able to return to that facility for another summer internship.


This year, we organized weekly one-hour programs throughout the summer. Each weekly program featured one composer and included some interesting stories about the composer. Next, we played a few masterpieces of the composer and introduced the history or anecdotes about the masterpieces, including the composer’s inspiration. Then, we added some other pieces that we love to share with the seniors. Finally, we concluded with some easy-listening and peaceful, light music. We hoped that sharing our music would help the seniors feel that we’re all connected through love and hope!


To prepare for each of our weekly programs, we did hours and hours of research on the composers, prepared the material, and practiced the music pieces. Despite the serious commitment, the entire process was very rewarding. When we were performing, I instantly felt the connection with seniors through the power of music. My sister and I received lots of acclamation and encouragement. After each program, there were several seniors came over to us and told us how much they enjoyed our program and how grateful they were for what we did for them. They said that they looked forward to our next concert, and they would refer our program to their families and friends. I was so moved and proud that my sister and I were able to do something so meaningful for the seniors.


Furthermore, I was surprised that Ms. Holliday even stopped by a couple times, out of her extremely busy schedule, to give us warm support. We truly appreciated being loved and supported. This is a huge encouragement and motivation to us. Thank you, Ms. Holliday, Ms. Adams, and the staff at Brighton Gardens for making this summer a wonderful experience for us!


Our program brochures for Brighton Gardens

How Service Benefits Student Volunteers

Charlotte Holliday

Music students truly benefit from playing for live audiences without the pressure of being judged. They gain valuable musical and performance experience as well as enjoying a wonderful opportunity to witness the impact of live music on their audiences.


I have learned so much in writing college recommendations for those who have remained active and proactive in nonprofit community service through music and the arts. Admissions offices give weight to those applications that demonstrate a pattern of philanthropy in the arts, particularly in music. I have learned that applicants who have volunteered through the years for underserved people (children in piano/guitar pals, elderly in facilities, and the sick in hospitals) are more likely to be accepted to the schools of their choice and even to receive scholarships. Until the 501c3 nonprofit work, I did not realize the importance of philanthropic work in the eyes and hearts of the admissions offices. Students who build community bridges are students that schools want on their campuses.


Very few music students go on to make a career in music, but thousands go on to become leaders in all professions. As I write recommendations for graduate school, medical school, law school, masters and doctoral degree programs, and scholarships/internships, I am aware that there is always interest in community service.


I think that those students and their families who are recruiting others to participate (telling their music teachers at school and private studios about the events and opportunities) will find that the emphasis on community service and leadership are points of great interest for college entrance acceptance.


Adults also request letters of participation and leadership for their job portfolios. Community service is now becoming an important component of the annual reviews by governmental and business organizations. We learned last year that one of our volunteers was chosen by SONY for an internship when the VP of the organization saw that she had played for a seniors’ facility for years. He was so impressed in the interview…and she was selected.

We could not offer such trust and respect in the documentation of the Tacy Foundation volunteers’ work without the steady hand, clear mind, and kind heart of our Volunteer Data Manager, Jenny Utz. Jenny offered to keep track of hours even before we became a 501c3. She has continued through the years with steadfast support of the youth, sending SSL forms to each school for each volunteer, and always commending the students for their service. As the hours come due for reporting and the numbers of requests become larger and larger, she has created systems to accommodate each volunteer’s hours and the immense number of hours of all volunteers each semester. She documents and affirms each volunteer with integrity. competence, attention to detail, and kindness. Jenny remains a cornerstone of The Tacy Foundation. She is a most-revered volunteer who always comes through on time with the correct information and encouraging words.


As I look in retrospect, the journey since The Tacy Foundation began in 2008-2009 has been serendipitous. Quite naively, we launched to provide a vehicle for students to enjoy sharing music with others and at the same time, earn student service-learning hours for their participation. We are now in place to reach out to the underserved, the sick, and the elderly of diverse cultures, ages, and economic means through youth and music; and the youth are given the opportunity to learn philanthropy and leadership as they extend their beautiful gifts to those in need. From these experiences, our youth will know the joy of inspiring hope and learning compassion for others. When they are ready, they will create and participate in service opportunities wherever they go. Thus, the circle of hope continues.


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 and Michael Tacy, Graphic Editors

Michael Favin, Chief Editor

Evan Yee, 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!  

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.