Stagg grad’s charity presents songs of consolation for folks in hospice

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By Calvin S. Nelson

Though she makes her residing as an expert singer and songwriter, it’s her charity that Palos Heights native Emily Cavanagh feels most enthusiastic about.

Referred to as A Tune for You, the trouble started at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 to offer customized authentic songs and canopy songs “to sufferers and households hit hardest” by COVID-19, primarily these in hospitals and hospices, in keeping with its web site, Though it began with a single tune, it’s grown right into a nonprofit group that has written lots of of songs for sufferers in hospice care and first responders.

“I actually solely needed to ship a few songs,” Cavanagh shared. “I simply meant to only do that factor that might be part of that second in time and didn’t understand there can be such a beneficiant response to it and that there was such a necessity.”

That want was one thing she acknowledged in 2020 when the world started to close down and folks realized the pandemic was going to get a lot worse earlier than it acquired higher.

“I got here residence for what I assumed can be three weeks, but it surely was three months,” she stated, including that spending time together with her household after residing in New York Metropolis for 18 years was great however seeing the information every night time was devastating.

“Mother and I noticed tales of people that had been dying and couldn’t maintain fingers. I feel everybody has that second, however for me that was mine,” Cavanagh stated.

“With my talent set as a singer who has a background in service, I noticed I might write a tune. … It changed into writing and recording a personalised tune for sufferers when their households couldn’t be there. I recorded a low-fi, low-budget recording, very do-it-yourself of ‘I Need To Maintain Your Hand.’”

She and her mother got here up with the thought for the charity when she’d been residence for a number of weeks, across the March birthday of her father, Thomas Cavanagh. “We might watch the information consistently,” stated her mom, Rosemary Cavanagh. “The tales, we noticed them and (Emily) stated ‘I’ve to do one thing.’ We felt so hopeless. That was the way it was launched. Emily thought she might write a tune.”

Her mother started filming movies of her daughter singing the songs. “We had nothing however time,” Rosemary stated, including that she wasn’t shocked her daughter began a charitable group. “She’s been going since she was a child,” she stated, together with when on the age of 8 or 9 she performed Santa for the neighbors after placing on a “horrible” do-it-yourself costume.

“She had empathy for folks — how terrible it may be or how great it may be,” Rosemary shared. “Emily would deliver a little bit happiness.”

Music has the “capacity to transcend a second,” Emily Cavanagh stated. “I’m at all times blown away — a tune can take you again to a spot or to a spot with hope and optimism. I feel that when folks couldn’t be in a spot with folks they cherished, they might nonetheless really feel shut. I do know as an artist, the venues had gone darkish so it was a way that we felt related as properly.”

She stated creating the primary tune introduced a “sense of peace. When the whole lot feels prefer it was loopy, for those who can simply do one small factor, you’ll be able to take a breath.”

At first, she and her volunteers created songs for first responders and nurses. “Lots of work at first days was we have now a nurse who’s in isolation so she wants a tune. We had a ton of people that had been working across the clock, so rather a lot was thank-you songs,” she stated.

Most of the tales she recalled are bittersweet. “We wrote one for a lady who was actually younger who needed to get married by an oak tree as a result of she needed to get married to her fiance. … She handed away very shortly after, however she acquired to bop to the tune that we wrote for her,” Emily Cavanagh shared.

“One of the touching, a 15 year-old reached out to get a tune for her dad. They didn’t have a really shut relationship however music introduced them again collectively,” she stated. “She needed to convey this message to convey that she’d sing about him.”

The woman was her first co-writer. “It’s the thought of even after you’re gone, I’ll nonetheless sing your identify. It speaks to preserving folks’s legacies alive by means of a tune.”

Emily Cavanagh, who graduated from Stagg Excessive Faculty in 2000, makes a residing singing and writing songs, and he or she performs the guitar and ukulele. She has performed professionally for the final 10 years after incomes a music diploma from Webster College and a grasp’s diploma in social work from New York College.

“I make a residing singing,” she stated, whether or not it’s a efficiency or singing for senior residents with reminiscence loss for the Nationwide Council of Jewish Girls or medically fragile kids. “Each method I pay my lease is for music, however rather a lot is on the intersection of music and repair,” she stated.

These musical connections have helped her create a steady of musicians prepared to assist her write and carry out songs for sufferers in hospice care. Amongst them are a former music professor and different music professionals, akin to Grammy Award-winner Jesse Harris, who writes for Norah Jones, Sophie B. Hawkins, Rolling Stones backup vocalist Sasha Allen and different native, touring and internationally recognized musicians.

Though A Tune for You has loads of individuals who need songs, it wants extra funding and help behind the scenes so it might probably proceed to supply its providers free of charge and to develop. Within the coronary heart of the pandemic, they despatched out greater than 200 songs, though this 12 months she’s put extra vitality into incorporating the charity and making a board. “However to maintain the numbers that prime, we’re going to want actual workers,” Emily Cavanagh shared. “Operating the nonprofit is most of my life. … I’m the founder so a variety of the work falls to me.”

She desires to maintain offering songs free of charge.

“Whereas we don’t cost households a dime, we’re in a second the place our demand has outgrown our sources,” she stated. “In consequence, we’re starting to look to foundations, donors and company sponsors to assist create a sustainable venture that has repeatedly confirmed its demand and has allowed us to maintain these songs free to the individuals who want them most.”

She’s grateful for the few volunteers she already has, however the group wants assist. “If you’re a songwriter, please attain out. If you’re an artist, please attain out. If in case you have a background in arts administration or improvement, these are sensible methods folks may give. If you’re retired and have expertise in fundraising or charity, please attain out. If it’s somebody who works within the enterprise or company world however has contacts who need to do company giving … Anybody who has the talent or need to be a part of a small charity with a concentrate on arts and finish of life, please attain out.”

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Her mom stated households are helped immensely by receiving a personalised tune, and he or she’s thrilled that her daughter “carried by means of together with her dream.”

“It helps households of their excessive moments of grief,” Rosemary Cavanagh stated. “It’s one thing they’ll have after their beloved is gone.” … It’s a celebration of an individual’s story somewhat than mourning.”

They’ve saved tune supply technique the identical, usually a recorded MP3 file delivered digitally to the household. That follow has allowed artists from everywhere in the world to take part.

“Now we have lots of people from New York, Chicago, Nashville, California but additionally overseas in Eire and London,” Emily Cavanagh stated, noting the charity has even created two songs in Spanish. “We’d like to develop that too.”

“In a small method, I really like that we get to seize someone’s story in a three-minute tune. That they will hear their life mirrored again to them, some sentiment mirrored again to them and that their household can have this tangible second that they will play repeatedly to do not forget that individual,” she shared. “That has felt actually significant.”

She typically hears from sufferers or individuals who knew them. “Considered one of our favourite social employees stated she shared a tune with a affected person who was actually struggling on the finish,” Emily Cavanagh shared. “She performed her that tune and he or she stated ‘That was my finest day.’ She handed away shortly after. … We really feel honored to be a part of that story.”

Melinda Moore is a contract reporter for the Each day Southtown.

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