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September 2022 Newsletter

Michael Tacy

Inspiring Hope this September
Inspiring Hope!
September 2022
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♩ Director’s Corner

This is a long issue of our newsletter, but I believe you will find it rewarding to read all the interesting and varied articles. May the many articles on summer projects inspire volunteers to continue as the fall ushers in cooler air, colorful leaves, a new grade in school, and seasonal holidays. We move ahead with tremendous support from the youth leadership, all-volunteer staff, parents, teachers, and the entire community. Along the way, many more volunteers will emerge to lend their hearts and hands in service. Thank you for supporting our youth as they serve with enthusiasm, courage, and hope.
 
Last month, we announced that Harrison Benford had been selected as a finalist for the Rubato International Music Competition. We celebrated this accomplishment with him!  And now, we are thrilled to announce that Harrison has won the Gold Medal! Congratulations to Harrison and to his teacher Nancy O'Neill Breth! (See his teacher’s lovely note on the competition below)
 
Harrison has volunteered in leadership capacities for the Tacy Foundation for four years, energetically providing uplifting music and human contact to many. He has:
  • served as Chief Intern at The Seneca of Rockville to organize monthly programs for the memory-care and assisted-living seniors. 
  • played a wide repertoire of music for the elderly.
  • played at NIH Noon Youth Concerts and for fundraising at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in the nation’s capital. 
  • volunteered at Eden Homes and other senior facilities. 
  • sent excellent videos to the ever-growing YouTube private playlist to senior assisted-living facilities and hospitals. 
This fall, as the Hebrew Home reopens its doors to Tacy Foundation youth, Harrison and Alan Whitman will assume leadership for monthly youth programs.  
Harrison Benford Wins Rubato International Piano Competition
(Harrison's teacher sent the following letter to her studio families on August 14, 2022.)
 
It's hard to find Good News these days....so you can thank Harrison Benford for making today a red-letter, super-good-news day for us all.
 
Harrison and Trudi are on their way home from Oxford, Alabama, where last night (August 14th) he was awarded the Gold Medal (and $5,000!) by the adjudicators of the inaugural Rubato International Piano Competition.

This was a week-long program for jazz and classical pianists, juried by a stellar panel of concert pianists from throughout the United States. Twenty-one semi-finalists from nine countries met for master classes, practice sessions, and socializing, and, of course, to compete in three divisions: one for jazz pianists and two, divided by age, for classical pianists.
 
I am deeply proud of Harrison for everything he put into this venture and for his continuing devotion to music and his constant search for deeper and more meaningful results. He has earned this award, and I applaud him.
 
Tribute should also go to Trudi and Dominic, who moved heaven and earth to get him to this event (that's another story...), and of course who are always there for him with their love and support.
 
It was a special delight for me to have Harrison championing 20th-century music, which formed a significant portion of his competition repertoire, and which was extremely well received and admired by fellow competitors and audience members alike. If only they were still alive, I'm sure Harrison would send a thank-you note to Bela Bartok and Louise Talma!  -- Nancy O'Neill Breth

Support for Uvalde Continues

Tacy Foundation volunteers have continued to make and gather cards and music to send to new partners in Uvalde to share with students and their families. We hope that these will help the Uvalde children be able to re-enter classes at school.

Chess at Asbury Methodist Village
By Joseph Mathew
 
When I first thought of volunteering at Asbury, I was thinking what any other teen my age was thinking: it would be boring. But as soon as I stepped through the doors of the building, I was blown away.

Let me explain. Last year during one of my piano classes, I was chatting with Ms. Holliday about what was happening at the time, and I mentioned that I had participated in a chess tournament. When Ms. Holliday heard this, she suggested that my friend and I should volunteer at Asbury to teach chess skills to the kind seniors there. This motivated me to volunteer. Fast forward to a year later, and I am now looking forward to going to Asbury on Saturdays to meet with the seniors there and talk with them about our shared passion: chess.

Last week I had the first meeting with the seniors at Asbury. As soon as I walked in, the coordinator of volunteering, Mrs. Oneka, greeted me and encouraged me to have some snacks. I was blown away by their hospitality! After a few minutes of conversing, she led me to the game room where my first “student” was waiting. While walking to the room, I couldn’t help but notice the numerous flyers advertising my visit to Asbury. I felt deeply honored to be there because the seniors were expecting my visit. When we got there, I met Oleg, a very friendly man who was eager to play chess with me. We talked about many things as we played and overall had a very fun time. After our session, we parted ways until the next meeting. I enjoyed serving our senior community and am looking forward to meeting more seniors in the future.
Priceless Moments
 
In appreciation for a special moment at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring…
 
On Saturday, August 20th, volunteers of all ages played at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring at their regular weekly time, 3-4 pm. The volunteers and their parents had traveled from as far as Prince George County, Rockville, Germantown, and Clarksburg.
 
As they played piano, clarinet, cello, and violin in the spacious lobby of this busy hospital, visitors stopped briefly to listen. A visitor came in and sat near the exit. He stayed for over 30 minutes. Approaching me, he asked what The Tacy Foundation was all about. He had read the beautiful red poster and checked the website as he listened.
 
He sat down beside me and told me that his mother, in her mid-90’s, was in the ICU. He wanted the volunteers to know that he was so very deeply touched by their music. He wanted them to know what a tremendous impact they made on him. I invited him to speak to them all. As he did, he spoke very powerfully. He thanked them all and told them that their gift of live music had strengthened him during such a difficult time. Clearly, his message was compelling and sincere.
 
We were speechless. His words and emphatic gratitude embossed in these volunteers the intrinsic value and beauty of their work.
 
This was a moment to remember. We took no photos that day. But the memory of this kind man’s presence and message will remain with us deeply, and the imprint of his warmth and gratitude has touched us, too, as we continue to inspire hope, note by note.  -- Charlotte Holliday 
Performances at Brightview West End
By Jessica Wang
 
Our program at Brightview West End started in March of this year. I, along with my co-Chief Intern, Sujit Hegde, perform at their Wellspring Village on the first Friday of every month. Brightview's Wellspring Village is a specially designed senior memory-care assisted-living facility for people who are living with Alzheimer's Disease or other forms of dementia. During the summer, we switched to the first Saturday of every month, and unfortunately, due to prior commitments, Sujit could not make it to these performances. Nevertheless, performing in the Wellspring Village is truly my highlight of every month -- seeing how all the residents enjoy the music we play, and the expressions on their faces after we perform -- it just makes every performance so incredibly special. 
Left to right, Grace Zhang, Jessica Wang, Hanqing Liu, Malinda Zhu,
Alisha Dey, Rose Liang, and Mengtong (Angela) Xiang
Inspiring Hope, Note by Note
By Lydia Schwartz
 
Many of my family members have had medical problems, but, unfortunately, we often must travel three hours to get to adequate medical facilities. Although right now only one person has a serious health issue, three times we had to spend long periods in Anchorage, Alaska, so one of us could receive needed medical treatment. While we were there, we found some music discs that changed our lives. Listening to those discs was often the highlight of our days since our family enjoys music so much. After we came home, we contacted the organization that gave out these discs. Then we became Tacy volunteers. 

In 2017 my little brother was born extremely early. My family practically moved to Anchorage because he was in the NICU for more than six months! While there, we found a channel managed by the hospital that played calming music accompanied by beautiful pictures of nature. Listening to and playing music has always been something that cheers us up. In short, we love music: we listen to music whenever we go to Anchorage for medical treatment. 

 
Dropping everything to get somebody to medical care was not a one-time thing. In 2019 we moved to Anchorage for ten months so my sister could receive cancer treatment. Sadly, we were unable to listen to the Care Channel. However, we found some music discs sent by the Tacy Foundation. Listening to these discs once again made this time much easier. While we hope that we will never have to do this again, we know that it will probably happen. 

However, nothing lasts forever, not even music discs. We eventually lost Tacy’s Gift.  So, my mom contacted the Tacy Foundation to see if we could get more. The Foundation sent us more Tacy’s Gift music discs and thumb drives. However, when my mother contacted them, she found out that they did so much more than just music discs.  Quickly, she signed us up to volunteer. She then arranged for us to perform a concert at the Alaska Fisher House, where we originally found the discs. Finding out that other volunteers made cards, we started making some too. We have made holiday cards, happy birthday cards, and get-well cards. We learned that one of the other guests was going through cancer treatment. He asked the staff for some jokes to keep him positive, and not feeling down all the time. The staff then told us, and we made him some joke cards too. And last month, Mom found the original Tacy’s Gift disc. 

In my family, the Tacy’s Gift disc was truly inspiring. Finding those discs was one of the greatest, most amazing things to happen to us. Since we have lots of medical appointments, it was a huge relief to have something to listen to. And now we volunteer, which has been an awesome experience. If it seems strange that one music disc could change so much, please remember that our family loves music. Truly, the Tacy Foundation has inspired hope for our family, note by note. 
A Live Music Performance in the Garden
By Shaun Wang
 
Flowers and plants scented the air with their sweet nectar, and the ceiling fans twirled at full blast, gently brushing away the warm, pulsing heat of the bright sun. A group of senior citizens sat underneath a pavilion, chatting while waiting for the young musicians to begin their live performance.

This was our very first summer live-music performance, sponsored by the Tacy Foundation, at the Brookdale in Olney. Earlier, during the school year, we had performed live music in the resident building. We came every month, and the seniors enjoyed it a lot. So, I talked with Mrs. Holliday from the Tacy Foundation, and the Activity Director of the Brookdale Senior Center, Mr. Coates, to see if we could continue the live music performances in the summer. Mr. Coates said that they would be happy to have us come back. He suggested that we could host the concerts outside in their garden, so the performers and seniors could get some fresh air and not have to keep their masks on. Thanks to the coordination of Mrs. Allison from the Tacy Foundation, we finalized the dates of the summer performances. The only problem was that we couldn’t move the facility’s piano outside for the performance. I asked Mrs. Holliday about this, and she kindly offered to lend her digital piano to the senior center, where it could be kept and taken outside for each concert. We went to her house to pick it up one night, and I remember her joking to us as we were about to leave. “Remember to turn it on, or else it won’t work,” she said, smiling.

I arrived at the senior center before the concert to set up the digital piano. Mr. Coates greeted us and helped set up the digital piano. Not only was he very kind, but he was also very handy. Together, we prepared the performance space and audience area. It was very hot outside, so it felt great when I was able to cool down while waiting for the performers and the audience to take their places. When it was finally time for the live music performance to begin, I introduced the program to the audience, and then the musicians performed one after another.

Thanks to all the help, effort, and coordination, our first summer live-music performance at Brookdale went very well, and I look forward to the next one.

Interview with a Special Person

By Samuel Wang

Mr. Antwan Coates, the Activity Director of the Brookdale Senior Center, beckons us into a bright and sunny patio in a garden outside. He is a cheerful and warm person, laughing all the time. His shining eyes are slightly wrinkled from smiling, gleaming through his dark glasses, and his lips form a slight arc upwards into a smile. All sorts of keys and tools dangle from his belt, trophies of his handiness. The twirling blades of fans overhead brush away beams of warm sunlight, gleaming through the clear afternoon air. The flowers surrounding the patio bloom in all sorts of colors, releasing the sweet scent of nectar.

I start the interview by asking Mr. Coates about his current life and how he’s doing. I find out that he is studying to renew his license to practice psychiatry, which he feels is much needed in these challenging times.

“So, are you a psychiatrist?” I ask, expecting the definite answer to be ‘yes’.

“Well, I am,” he explains in a supportive tone, “It's one of the things I do.” This sets my curiosity growing.

“What else do you do?” I ask.

It turns out that Mr. Coates has done many things. He was born on a farm in North Carolina – quiet, peaceful, and sounding like the perfect place to live. There was little to no air pollution, and on summer nights one could see all the stars in the sky. In the town where he lived, everyone was like one large family. No one locked any doors, and everyone knew each other. To quote Mr. Coates, “It's southern hospitality.” So that’s where Mr. Coates gets his cheerfulness and warmth.

According to Mr. Coates, he has been to every continent in the world except Antarctica. And he plans to go there some time. He does many things. He tells us about how when he was very young, he read adult biology books at home. And how he went to China and learned Shaolin kung fu; how he became a religion expert, giving talks at the senior center to the residents about all sorts of religions; and how he went to a military class in college, and parachuted, holding a large cannon, from a plane.

What characterizes him the most is how kind and helpful he is. He later tells us that one of his main role models is Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“Why?” I ask.

“Because his main goal was to help others,” he answers simply.

Mr. Coates goes on to tell us about some of his interesting life stories. Once, as he was filling his car with gas, he saw an old woman nearby, who seemed to need help. He approached, and upon discovering that something was wrong with the car, he jumped in to help immediately. Having the woman sit in the car, he single-handedly took apart part of the car, fixed it, put it back again, and filled it with gas for her. When the woman offered to pay him, he refused.

As our interview was ending, he escorted my brother and me out of the patio, through the building, and back to the entrance. Just as we were about to leave, we heard someone was calling for him, needing his help. During the visit, I was deeply inspired by his overall love for humanity and excitement for life. I am sure that he will continue to help others, and I look forward to the next time we can visit.

A Summer Experience I Will Never Forget
By Susan Lin
 
I had no idea what to expect from my internship at Brighton Gardens of Friendship Heights this summer. Despite singing for seniors, I hadn’t really had any other experiences interacting with them, so I was quite nervous. However, I was excited at the same time because I had the opportunity to learn more about the population I serve. I walked in the front door of Brighton Gardens with some hesitation and anxiety, but a little more than two weeks later, I walked out the front door with confidence, passion, and a sense of sadness because I knew I would miss working with the seniors so much.

There were many small things I did during the internship, including folding napkins, delivering newspapers, taking walks with seniors, and helping with the social hour; and there were a few things that I did very often. For the seniors who are part of the Assisted Living and Independent Living Programs, I helped host Jeopardy almost every day. Every 11am, the seniors and I would gather downstairs in the living room, ready to exercise our brains with intriguing information and knowledge. Some seniors were good at Jeopardy, and all of them were enthusiastic in answering and collaborating with each other to figure out the answers. The seniors and I learned a lot of new, interesting facts.

I also got to chat and discuss current issues with a lot to seniors. Many seniors had great insights, and I learned a lot from them. A staff member hosted a workshop that showed a documentary on air pollution around the world and facilitated a discussion about that issue with the seniors. I participated in the workshop – I not only learned a lot about the specifics of air pollution and its detrimental effects, but I also further recognized the importance of my generation taking action to change the world, make it a better place, and spread awareness by educating others. Many seniors at the workshop were passionate about the issue and hoped to do something to conserve the environment. I felt the same and was inspired by them.

The Reminiscence Memory Care Program on the second floor means a lot to me as well because it is the first place I was assigned to help, and I had the opportunity to work with and learn more about seniors with disabilities. Indeed, the Reminiscence Program is designed for seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other forms of memory loss. I read stories to the seniors and sang several times. The stories I read came from a book of inspiring short stories. As some of the seniors were listening (many others were zoning out or sleeping, since the reading usually took place right after lunch), I felt immersed in the stories and connected with the seniors. Every time I read, I made sure that my tone and the way I read the story fit the story and that my voice was clear and loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. Later during the internship, I decided to sing for these seniors because I hoped to spread joy to them through something I love doing and wanted to apply what I learned from creating my presentation “The Neuroscience of Music” to seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease to help them evoke memories. I sang songs of various genres and languages, including English, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, and even though there were some songs that the seniors didn’t understand, they nevertheless seemed to enjoy the melodies and emotions conveyed in the songs.

While singing, I observed that some seniors were zoning out or sleeping after lunch; some thought I was saying other things; some thought I was making weird noises. However, some knew that I was singing, and I am extremely happy about that. I have learned to embrace and enjoy these little things in life. When I sang songs that I thought the seniors might know, like “My Heart Will Go On” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” some seniors, along with staff members, began humming, lip syncing, and singing with me. I was surprised and excited. Singing and listening to the same songs brought all of us together in the small space of the living room. We were all happy afterwards, and my experience singing for those seniors strengthened my belief that music really does transcend multiple barriers. I am glad to have sung for them.

Fortunately, music is infused in the daily lives of seniors at the Reminiscence Program, which clearly seemed to have a significant, positive impact on seniors’ well-being. Every morning and afternoon, songs, like classical music, were played in the living room where most seniors were. There was often morning singing, a guided singing by a staff member, and the seniors would sing along. One senior at the Program was always singing a song that some other seniors, and even I, eventually learned how to sing. Some seniors were dancing and swaying with the upbeat music played.

I met many amazing people at Brighton Gardens too, including “Mary” (a senior at the Reminiscence Program with whom I always spent a lot of time), “Emily” (a senior who I always played Gin Rummy with and talked to), and “Ruth” (a former psychiatrist with whom I took walks). They were all friendly, and I spent cherished time with them. [To protect residents’ privacy, pseudonyms are used for their names.]

I was able to interview some seniors and workers at the Reminiscence Program about their stories and their thoughts on music. I decided to interview people who in the Reminiscence Program because I thought it would be insightful and captivating to hear perspectives I had never heard before. Here are the questions I asked and answers I received from a staff member who has worked at Brighton Gardens of Friendship Heights for 16 years and made sure everything was going well while I spent time helping the Reminiscence Program:

● Why did you decide to work here at the Reminiscence program? ○ She loves working with seniors because they bring her joy every day she comes; working with them is peaceful for her.

● What do you enjoy most about working here? ○ She enjoys interacting with residents the most.

● What is a challenge you have encountered while working here? ○ A challenge she has encountered while working here is strengthening the seniors’ self-esteem, making them eat and helping them when they want to go out.

● What music do the seniors enjoy the most? What are their favorite songs/music/ musicals? ○ The seniors enjoy opera, 50s and 60s music (the music of their time, as most of them are 70 to 80 years old), and rock and roll the most. Some songs they love are “You Are My Sunshine,” “Que Sera, Sera,” and “It's a Long Way to Tipperary.”

● How has music impacted the seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease? ○ She repeated, “Music is the best. Music is the best.” She further indicated that music can be even more helpful when one is educated about it. “Music is the key.”

● Do you have any last words before this interview ends? ○ She said, “When you walk into the Reminiscence Program, the residents are your family.” She works at the Program eight hours per day, from 9:30am to 5pm, and this is like her second family. The staff members and the residents know each other very well.

This staff member was always so patient, caring, and direct in a good way; I am glad to have met her and learned from her passion.

I also asked some seniors at the Reminiscence Program some questions, and for most of the seniors I interviewed, I had to guide the conversation and ask the questions multiple times so that they could fully comprehend them. Some of the seniors were not able to answer some questions because they couldn’t understand the questions or simply didn’t remember, and some of them repeated similar answers. Here are the questions I asked them:

● Where were you born?

● What did you do before you came here

● What are some things you want me or others to know about you?

● Do you enjoy music? What are your favorite, most meaningful songs? Do you have a favorite singer?

What I learned about “Mary”: She was born in Washington D.C. and was a schoolteacher (a principal?). Her favorite cookie is chocolate chip. She enjoys music, the kind the seniors listen to in the mornings. She enjoys classical music and songs from musicals.

What I learned about “Olivia,” who was happy to talk about her family, especially her daughter: She was born in New York and was a high school math teacher. She majored in math and graduated from Brown University. She had a smart and good husband whom she went to Boston with over the summers. Her very-smart daughter lived in Brooklyn, graduated from Brown, and is now married and works in D.C. “Olivia’s” husband does the NewsHour. She has an older sister who lives in Washington. “Olivia” enjoys music but doesn’t have a favorite song.

What I learned about “Rhonda”: She was born in New Hampshire and wasn’t a college graduate. She worked for a doctor for four years and moved to Washington (so she has been here for many years now) because she became involved with politics (I always see her reading the newspaper!). She worked for the U.S Senate and did toe dancing and tap dancing because her parents wanted her to. She also loves certain kinds of music. She likes classical music and just regular singing.

What I learned about “Grace”: She doesn’t remember anything about her life story. She likes the kind of peaceful music that was playing during the interview (I think the song was “You Raise Me Up”), some classical music, and some musicals, although she doesn’t have a favorite song, singer, or music. And she doesn’t really like opera.

The seniors at the Reminiscence Program were so kind to have me interview them, and these responses I got strongly indicate that music can have tremendous impacts on seniors’ health and happiness.

I have learned so much interning at Brighton Gardens of Friendship Heights that will remain with me as my life moves forward. As someone who never considered herself to be a patient person, working with the seniors, caring for them, and learning their stories has helped me become more patient, understanding, open, and sensitive to my environment. There was a time when I felt that a senior was being a little mean to me during Jeopardy, but after hearing what happened to her and reflecting on myself from her perspective, I understand why she might have felt and acted that way. Even though some other seniors, like the seniors at the Reminiscence Program, said things that didn’t make sense, and some were not being responsive to what I was saying, I learned to understand and not take those actions personally.

I learned to always strive to be a better person, to be my best self, and to act as best I can on the things I can control; to not have any regrets; and to serve my community better. I always reflect on my actions. I have also become more confident and a better listener and conversation-starter, skills that I needed when chatting with the seniors. Last, but not least, I have learned to step out of my comfort zone more and be more courageous in trying things I haven’t done. I learned a new card game, sang for a group of people I had never sung for before, folded napkins in the restaurant-style, and many other things. I am so beyond grateful for this invaluable, rewarding, and memorable experience, and I will continue to serve and give back to our community.
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
          Seniors
          Children
          Teens
          Service members
          Veterans
          Injured/sick
          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: 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
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:  www.tacyfoundation.org.
Or send your donation to: 
The Tacy Foundation 
Box 2334
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