Tu creates 88 Keys to Cure, combines passion with service

Aidan Graham & Katherine Schurer, staff reporters

Not many people can play the piano quite like South senior Grace Tu can. At 10 years old, according to Tu, she played at Carnegie Hall in New York, and as of last year, Tu says was awarded 2nd place at the Illinois State Music Teachers Association competition. In an effort to transport her abilities on the keys into community service, Tu began a non-profit organization this year called 88 Keys to Cure.

According to Tu, she decided to pursue piano at age 6 after watching her sister play the piano for four years. Now at age 17, Tu’s love for music has endured as she reflects on the journey thus far.

“I grew to fall in love with piano along the way, and throughout the years it has been very rewarding,” Tu said.

Choir Teacher Andrew Toniolo believes Tu’s journey with piano has been successful so far. According to Toniolo, her work ethic and dedication to piano is mirrored in the classroom.

“Grace is a workhorse,” Toniolo said,  “She is always humble and sets a high standard for herself.”

Through hours of practice and dedication every day, Tu says she hopes to pass on her love for the instrument down to students as young as 4 years old at the Sueanne Metz studio in Long Grove, much like her sister did for her.

According to Tu, she wanted to find a way to merge community service with her passion for playing piano, and recruited three of her friends from the studio to help. With this in mind, the group began discussing with their instructor, and 88 Keys to Cure was born, according to Tu.

“For years, we have been so privileged, having taken [piano lessons] to perform and compete,” Tu said. “We wanted to find a way to give back.”

Tu explained how she came to understand that performing at competitions was largely something she was doing for herself, and wanted to expand her horizon.

“[Playing the piano] is something that we often do for ourselves,” Tu said. “We compete […] for ourselves, to win, to get a placement. We thought that this would be something very different since we’re not doing it for ourselves, we’re doing it for [other] people.”

Toniolo agrees that Tu’s desire for charity is prevalent in her service with 88 Keys to Cure. According to Toniolo, Tu’s compassion is rooted at home.

“I think her charity comes from her upbringing,” Toniolo said. “I know her mother to be super kind and giving.  It’s no wonder Grace echos that in her personality.”

Tu says that 88 Keys to Cure was launched this year with the intent of playing the piano to benefit the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. The organization has raised over $10,000 through online donations, according to Tu, as well as performed at the Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston on April 1, where six students from Tu’s studio performed, two of whom were only 5 years old.

According to Tu, the money raised by 88 Keys to Cure is benefitting the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the hospital to sponsor the medical and surgical needs of young children, while also subsidizing parking and transportation fees to and from the hospital for families.

As for the future of 88 Keys to Cure, Tu hopes to pass leadership roles in the organization down to future generations of students at her studio, but she claims she still wishes to have a part in the initiative at college next year.