A little-known organization is motivating hundreds of young musicians in Montgomery County to help people around the country.
The Tacy Foundation, a charitable nonprofit organization, is based in founder and piano teacher Charlotte Holliday’s Germantown home. She and her small volunteer staff help young instrumentalists record their musical performances, then distribute the songs on holiday-themed CDs.
Hundreds of copies of the CDs are shipped off to patients in places like Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda. On Saturday, Holliday and a few of her students joined residents at the Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg to assemble 1,300 CDs. They will be gifted to the National Law Enforcement and Firefighters Childrens’ Foundation in New York, Holliday said.
The foundation, which is about three years old, seeks to heal with music, Holliday said.
“Everybody wants to give,” she said, “and we are always looking for a way to give.”
Many of Holliday’s piano students volunteer to play pieces and have them recorded. The students range from kindergarten to high school, and live in Montgomery County.
The younger students, though less skilled, seem enthusiastic about the program.
“They can barely find the keys, but they want to give their heart to someone in New York or Pennsylvania or Texas,” she said.
Holliday said she has had about 200 students participate in the CD recording program over its three-year span. The program began when Holliday visited a friend with breast cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital. After a chance meeting with Avon’s CEO, a breast cancer research advocate, Holliday said she wanted to do what she could to help.
Their first CD, “Sounds of Hope and Healing,” was gifted to Johns Hopkins’ breast cancer center. Since then, they have created at least 20 different CDs, she said.
The students record the songs in the home of Mike Engel, a sound engineer. Engel runs a studio in his Gaithersburg home.
Working with the Tacy Foundation “was a hobby that became a little bit more than a hobby,” he said.
During recording sessions, children of all ages and their parents stream through his family’s house, each spending 10 to 15 minutes playing their Steinway piano. Though many play classical pieces, some of the songs they record are pop favorites like the Star Wars theme and the Beatles’ “Blackbird.”
“Some of these performances aren’t perfect, but that’s what makes it special,” Engel said.
The CDs have generated thank-you notes from hospitals, the Red Cross, and former president George W. Bush, Holliday said. In 2011, he thanked the foundation for contributing CDs to recovering veterans through the Wounded Warriors program.
“I appreciate your thoughtfulness, and I especially appreciate your efforts to honor our wounded warriors,” Bush wrote.
The National Law Enforcement and Firefighters Childrens’ Foundation, scheduled to receive 1,300 CDs from the Tacy Foundation, is currently working to make contact with first responders’ families displaced by Hurricane Sandy.
Their executive director, Sarahbeth Grossman, said there are still “thousands of homes that have to be rebuilt, and thousands of homes with no power or heat.” Many firefighters’ or police officers’ families are staying with relatives or in rental properties until they can find a home, she said.
Their organization will distribute the 1,300 CDs to families who attend their Thanksgiving Day Parade breakfast in New York City’s Bryant Park. The annual breakfast has been a “healing” experience for many of the families since it was first organized after Sept. 11, 2001.
“Some inspirational, holiday-type music is something they’ll all be happy to have this year,” Grossman said.