Christopher Kuo and his mother, Michelle Chen Kuo, are Two Piano Journey, a piano duo on a mission to make the world a better place. Chris recently joined Wu Yee Children’s Services’ Board of Directors and we are so lucky to gain his fundraising and organizing expertise. Two Piano Journey is hosting a benefit recital at The Green Room at the San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center on April 13th at 7:00 pm. Purchase tickets here.
I was able to ask Chris and Michelle some questions about growing up in a musical family, having strong role models, and how their lives have been shaped by those factors.
Here are some highlights from our conversation:
Answered by Christopher Kuo:
Since you have been on this "Two Piano Journey” for approximately three years, performing with your mom and helping organizations, what have you learned about what makes an organization successful and thrive?
Every organization that has succeeded has forged its own path. The common threads we've identified are that the organizations that do scale add an unbelievable amount of value to their communities with the resources they have, are growth minded, and filled with passionate employees and volunteers who care deeply about the cause they serve every day. I was drawn to Wu Yee for these exact reasons.
Now that you have gotten to know Wu Yee better and become our newest Board Member, how has your perspective changed? What is your main focus for Wu Yee?
To me, serving on Wu Yee's board has been an immense opportunity for me to learn the inner workings of a large nonprofit organization serving thousands of families. The decisions being made in the boardroom impact families working towards the best possible future for their children. I am honored to share in that responsibility. My main focus for Wu Yee is the Wu Yee Ambassadors. Our Board Members have developed a volunteer program that has potential for long lasting impact for the families Wu Yee serves. This program will do much to support our children while shining a spotlight on Wu Yee within the diverse, corporate community in the Bay Area.
How did growing up in a musical family with strong role models influence you?
I am grateful to my parents for my upbringing. There is a certain joy that is unlike any other to be woken up in the mornings by beautiful music. I'd hear my mom playing the piano and my dad rehearsing on his trumpet.
Ever since I was a young boy, my parents taught me the value of serving my community. We performed my first benefit concert when I was in elementary school and every year after that. In the end, I am simply living a life filled with music and service and it hasn't changed since my childhood.
Do you have a favorite memory growing up? What other activities did your family participate in?
I remember so vividly the first time I touched a piano. My mom played a duet with me as I played the middle C for four whole notes. I was immediately enraptured. 20+ years later, playing the piano with my mom is one greatest joys of my life.
We love to travel - we have shared so many memories together. Our favorite destination to date is Hawaii - nothing beats that perfect sunny weather!
Answered by Michelle Chen Kuo:
In working with many outstanding partner organizations, what are some similarities you have noticed? What qualities make an institution successful?
It's been such a joy to tour with my son for the last three years! Whenever we meet with the team members of our most successful partners, we feel their passion. That passion is deeply woven through the fabric and culture of the organization - everyone cares so much about supporting their community, everyone is willing to work so hard. This journey has made me believe in miracles. Our biggest joy is watching our partner organizations partner along with us. We've seen first hand what a small group of extremely passionate, talented, and hard working people can do to change the world. Our partners inspire us, and we are grateful to be a part of their journey.
How do you think your family was unique from others, as your children grew up?
We definitely are a musical family! We all grew up around instruments as a way of life, and we wanted to share the joy of music with our children. Teaching my sons piano was always one of my happiest memories.
What were your hopes for your children growing up?
Believe it or not, I never raised my children to be musicians. I wanted to shield them from the hardship that comes with a career in music. I think like every parent, I wanted my children to be happy, successful, and smiling. t makes me happy to watch them grow into the adults they are.
As a parent, how do you relate to our Wu Yee families? What inspires you about Wu Yee?
All parents dream and sacrifice so that their children to have endless opportunities to have a happy life. What inspires me about Wu Yee is that the organization works to provide immigrant families the opportunity to make that dream come true. My husband and I came to this country with empty pockets, and through music, we were able to find our footing and build our careers. We were lucky - it isn't a straightforward journey for everyone, and I feel completely privileged to be able to support this organization through our concert.