Happy for HappyNotes: Girl Scout Gold Award Project spreads music to retirement homes across the region


Photo courtesy of Linda Diaz

HappyNotes musicians after their first two performances at the Sylvestery and Arleigh Burke of the Vinson Hall Retirement Community.

Christine Zhao, Team Leader

The Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement in the Girl Scouts Program, seeks to encourage leadership and achievement through Take Action projects in the community. While Girl Scout websites often suggest projects ranging from sports clinics to recycling campaigns, junior Linda Diaz had a different project in mind when proposing her Gold Award idea: combine her passion for music with the music program at her school to establish something positive and sustainable in the local community.

“I knew I wanted somehow bring more music to the community,” Diaz said. “In the past, I had gone caroling and played flute for retirement homes during the winter holiday season, but I realized that seldom do people perform outside of that season.”

Inspired by this deficiency, Diaz came up with the idea of HappyNotes, an organization that would perform year-round in retirement homes across the Northern Virginia region.

“Considering that TJ has a large supply of wonderful musicians, I figured that instead of just practicing to perform for our families, we could perform directly to the community that can’t normally get access to live music,” Diaz said.

To promote her organization, Diaz publicized HappyNotes to musicians in her school’s band, creating a Facebook page and group to coordinate performance dates, times, and locations.

“To make sure we have the most number of people coming on the best day, I normally ask the group first, what days are you free during this month? I give available dates and times to get a feel for availability,” Diaz said. “And then I’ll contact retirement homes and ask if they have any availabilities on the best days, and then depending on what they say, then I’ll send out a commitment form and Google form so people who are able to commit to that certain day and rehearsals will say that they can commit and I know how many people are coming, and then I’ll contact the retirement homes again. Then, I’ll work out the details, making sure the time is set, the date is set.”

Since the beginning of HappyNotes in Sep. 2016, Diaz has organized four performances at Sylvestery & Arleigh Burke, Chesterbrook Residences, and Sunrise of Leesburg. Preparation for performances starts with individual practice, moving onto 8th period rehearsals and a pre-performance rehearsal 15 minutes before go time.

“We would go and perform and there would always be one or two people who would really appreciate the performance, and they would come up to us afterwards,” junior Sophie Koh said. One of her favorite memories was seeing the smile and hearing the story of a former high school bass clarinetist, an audience member who approached the musicians after their performance at Sunrise of Leesburg. “She said you guys just made my day, and that made me really happy.”

For senior Kristen Halper, HappyNotes performances have provided her the opportunity to understand the importance of musical outreach and service activities while earning hours towards her service hour requirements.

“It helps not only the people that you’re trying to do the service for, but also you because you get to meet other people and see their perspective of things, and also just spend time doing something that’s not just for yourself,” Halper said.

Although HappyNotes performances currently only involve band instruments, orchestral and choral musicians are encouraged to participate and expand the repertoire of the program.  

“Right now I think it’s just band instruments, but it’s not limited to that by any means,” Koh said. “I’m sure Linda can find music for anybody if anybody wanted to join. It’s basically whoever wants to play. We’ll find a way for you to be a part of the performance. I highly recommend HappyNotes as a program if you like making people happy and you like music.”

To sign up for HappyNotes, interested musicians are encouraged to like the Facebook page and join the Facebook group to get updates on commitments, rehearsal dates, and performance times.

“If you don’t have a Facebook, you can simply email [email protected] with your name and instrument to get updates that way,” Diaz said. “Once you’re in the group, you just have to stay updated; if you see a post for another performance, you can sign up and I’ll give you the details for the music and the rehearsals and then you come to the rehearsals and then you come to the performance. It’s pretty straightforward. There’s no audition process for this. It is all about sharing music with the community. If you want to be involved, you can be involved.”