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Weekender Recommendations: Nyack Sweet Songs, a Remedy For Tough Times

by Sarah Scheuer

COVID-19 is not just a pandemic of disease; it’s a pandemic of loneliness. Humans are not made to subsist solely on our own company. We rely on connection, yet right now so many of us are forced to spend time away from family, friends, and lovers.

When Nyack resident Tina Martin needed some cheering up one day, her daughter called from Chicago to play her a song. A neighbor dropped off some vanilla cupcakes at Martin’s home soon thereafter. This combination of simple joys inspired Martin to start a project in the Nyack area that would lift people’s spirits and ease the weight of their solitude with a combination of music and sweets.

Her first step was recruiting Gail Heller, a good friend and a teacher at Nursery School of the Nyacks. “Gail is one of those people who’s always giving back to the community in so many ways,” Martin says. Heller agreed to help, and her husband, Chris Spezial, offered to handle the baked goods through his work at Rockland Community College.

And just like that, Nyack Sweet Songs was born.

This is how it works: musicians and dancers can sign up to do a 20 minute set in front of the window or door of someone’s home between 11a and 5p on Tuesdays or Saturdays (days/times could be more flexible depending on the week). Following the performance, which may be tailored to different music tastes, the lucky recipient gets a batch of cookies baked with care by the RCC Hospitality & Culinary Arts Center staff. Martin hopes that the cookies can prolong that wonderful feeling of being serenaded.

“We do a half hour of songs, but then we’re gone!” Martin says. “We wanted to ease our departure a little by having the cookies.”

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COVID-19 precautions are taken seriously throughout the process. Performers stay a minimum of 15 feet away from audience members for proper physical distancing, and the RCC staff carefully follow the Board of Health guidelines as they bake the cookies.

The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. After her visit from local musicians Maggie Hoffee and Michel Henry, a 96-year-old violinist was delighted. “I’ve played music for so many years,” she said, “but no one has ever serenaded me before.”

Though Nyack Sweet Songs focuses on serenading people at their homes, they have been expanding to events at Nyack Soup Angels, which is serving dinner on a to-go basis during this time. Performers stay across the street from the meal pick-up site.

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Each individual concert is exciting and restorative for Martin to witness. “Things are so hard for people right now that even if you can give them 20 minutes of feeling better, it feels worth it. It feels worth the time just to see them smile, see them tap their feet. It’s great.”

Martin emphasizes that a visit from Nyack Sweet Songs is not exclusive to those who are isolated. It is for anyone at all who might need a lift during this strange time. To arrange a serenade for yourself or someone you know, or to sign up for a shift as a musician or dancer, send your contact information to You can also visit their Facebook page. A volunteer coordinator will be in touch with you from there. 

Sarah Scheuer is a Nyack News & Views Intern. 

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