In March, when COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing in Boston, young musicians and siblings Elizabeth and Ethan Qian-Tsuchida from Newton, Mass., heard notes of fear and uncertainty.
Their father, Toby Tsuchida, information security officer at Massachusetts General Hospital, and their mother, Kelly Qian-Tsuchida, a pharmacist at Winchester Hospital, shared stories from the frontlines: Intensive care units filling up with very sick patients; the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center becoming a field hospital; family friends working in health care making great sacrifices and saving lives.
Responding to COVID-19 Fears
Elizabeth, 14, an eighth grader at Bigelow Middle School in Newton, has played piano since she was about 5 years old, performing in national competitions at Carnegie Hall. Her brother, Ethan, 12, began playing cello two years ago after studying other instruments.
“There is always going to be hope and inspiration, even during dark times.”
They wanted to use their talent to bring hope to an anxious community and raise money for health care workers. The brother-sister duo performed together before the COVID-19 pandemic, but with stay-at-home orders moving their music groups online, they have become each other’s only real-time music partners.
The siblings use their living room to record their concerts. As they perform, they appear as silhouettes — an artistic decision to emphasize that Boston is in a dark time right now, explains Elizabeth. “Music is the light at the end of the tunnel. There is always going to be hope and inspiration, even during dark times,” she says.
When Elizabeth feels uneasy, she plays piano — listening as the notes she knows by heart float on air and calm her.
The Gift of Music
One of the first pieces she selected for the fundraiser was Tchaikovsky’s April from The Seasons. The piece is also known as Snowdrop, named for the tiny, white flowers that brave the cold in early spring, while other flowers wait underground for warmer days.
On their fundraising page, Elizabeth writes, “Snowdrops symbolize sympathy, purity, optimism and virtue. Through the music, we hope you can imagine that the snow is melting, the long and cold winter is over, and that spring is finally coming.” For Elizabeth, this message parallels what she hopes happens with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ethan, a sixth grader at Jackson Walnut Park, a private school in Newton, says he hopes their music inspires others to brave the pandemic and support frontline medics. He looks to the beat in classical music to steady his wandering mind. He can always find it, he says, even when his fingers work the bow of his cello in a tangle of rising and descending notes.
Finding an Audience
Elizabeth and Ethan send their concerts to family and friends, some of whom are health care workers, as well as teachers and music instructors. They share them on their fundraising page and social media channels. They have also posted signs advertising their concerts at local pizza shops and restaurants open for takeout.
Their audience has been supportive, Ethan says. “We’ve even gotten advice — where to send our fundraising concerts and what songs to play.”
“I am very proud of them, that they initiated this project on their own.”
Within 10 days, they had reached 75 percent of their fundraising goal. “It’s amazing to see how Elizabeth and Ethan connect with their music,” says their mother, Kelly. “I’m very proud of them, that they initiated this project on their own. This is their first time fundraising.”
Toby, their father, adds, that he was proud, but not surprised, when his children told him of their idea. “We teach the kids to be compassionate and they have always been community-focused,” he says.
Elizabeth and Ethan plan to continue posting concerts and raising funds to fight COVID-19. “We want to make sure that all the doctors and nurses feel supported and hopeful during this pandemic,” Elizabeth says.
To support Elizabeth Qian-Tsuchida and Ethan Qian-Tsuchida’s fundraising efforts, please click here.
From their living room, Elizabeth and Ethan Qian-Tsuchida play classical duets and post them on their fundraising page.