Pianist Ginny Tiu's immigrant story and musical gift honored in NYC
The Ellis Island Honors Society recently honored 94 people whose contributions have shaped the story of our nation. Among them were two Hawaiʻi residents: Hawaii National Bank Chair Warren Luke and classical pianist Ginny Tiu.
The award "honors the importance of immigration to America’s prosperity and celebrates the contributions immigrants and their progeny have made to our nation," according to the website.
When Tiu was 5 years old, she was discovered as a child piano prodigy. She traveled from the Philippines with her parents to play on programs like The Ed Sullivan Show and The Andy Williams Show while her siblings, including former Hawaiʻi first lady Vicky Cayetano, initially stayed behind.
"My dad realized we weren't going home soon and had grandmother and auntie bring the other six children. So that's how it all came about. It was not planned, at least not in our minds. It was God's plan, obviously. But it wasn't planned," Tiu said. "It's a gift because, you know, I don't read music. I hear it. I play by ear and it truly is a gift from God."
Tiu's immigrant story and special gift touched many hearts over the years. She was awarded the Monsignor Charles A. Kekumano Award in 2014 for her work with causes near and dear to her heart: keiki, kūpuna and animals. She's also on the boards of the Hawaiian Humane Society, the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra and the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation.
In receiving the Ellis Island award, Tiu joined the company of presidents, CEOs, and leaders in the athletic and entertainment fields whose philanthropy has helped to elevate others and strengthen our country.
"When you think of the history and what Ellis Island means to so many people throughout the world, and then to this country, you know, because they came looking for a better life and, you know, being able to have the opportunity to realize their dreams — it's just chicken skin really."
This interview aired on The Conversation on May 22, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.