Sensing her grandfather’s growing gloom about the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing isolation in his home in far away Turkey, Aylin Tanriverdi decided to cheer him up with some music.
Serenading her grandfather by guitar via Zoom, “it instantly lit up his eyes,” the 17-year-old Austin, Texas teen says, as she played “Canarios” by Gaspar Sanz, lifting her grandfather’s mood. “The song is inspired by an ancient dance from the Canary Islands, and (my grandfather) told me he imagined dancing on an island with me as I played.”
Deciding that moment was one that could be replicated with other lonely seniors, Aylin launched Musical Postcards for Seniors, an initiative that has involved about 100 of Aylin’s student peers at the Orpheus Academy of Music, some recruiting siblings or family, to record hundreds of video greetings and concerts that have been viewed by seniors in more than 760 nursing homes across 26 states in the United States and elsewhere internationally. Through her volunteerism, Aylin is offering seniors hope and giving youth an opportunity to make a positive change in their communities during a time of social isolation.
What inspires you to volunteer?
Alleviating social conditions and building connections, especially through music, is deeply meaningful to me. When I saw how my music school peers were becoming isolated and struggling to practice music during the pandemic, and then heard about isolated seniors in nursing homes, I wanted to do something about it. Humans are social beings that inherently create social connections. This initiative brings our community together, and gives us courage to overcome life’s challenges.
Describe your volunteerism with Musical Postcards for Seniors.
As founder and leader, I coordinate students to record concerts, and then help to manage editing and distribution of these performance postcards. I also work with nursing homes to distribute our performances and reach more seniors. Music is a very powerful vehicle that can connect people globally.
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
One senior told us they loved the concert we taped for them so much that they watched it each morning. The senior said the postcard gave them hope and brought “sunshine to this dark time.” Bringing joy to even one person is really meaningful and rewarding for me, especially during a time of isolation and economic, social and justice crises.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Everyone has their own talents and capabilities that they can use to unite and work together to redeem social conditions.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your service?
At the start of the pandemic, Orpheus students were isolated, and they were really eager to record music and greetings for seniors. They went out of their way to record these concerts and even compose new pieces. It was really rewarding to work together to make this happen and brought out the best in everyone to stay connected.
In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?
When you’re not busy in school or volunteering, what do you do for fun?
I love figure skating, reading, playing classical guitar and making hand crafts and digital art for my friends.
What is your favorite song to play on the guitar?
Oh that’s hard (laughs). I used to play in a classical guitar trio and we played “Kalimba” by Jürg Kindle. A kalimba is an African “thumb piano.” To imitate the sound of a kalimba, we each put a handkerchief underneath the strings of our guitar. I had never done this technique before, so it was very exciting to try. The piece is based on African and Afro-Cuban rhythms. I loved exploring different cultures while also learning and playing new rhythms with the trio.
How can readers help?
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Aylin Tanriverdi? Find local volunteer opportunities.