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Tammy Hsu lends an artistic helping hand 

Numerous studies show that students who are exposed to the arts do better in school. But in tough financial times, families may not have the money to pay for expensive classes and training. Tammy C. Hsu, executive director and founder of the Intermezzo Awards, however, doesn't think money should kill a child's interest in the arts — especially music.

Creative Loafing: Why did you decide to create the Intermezzo Awards organization?

Tammy Hsu: Well, the Intermezzo Awards was inspired by my own personal story. I started playing piano when I was 6 years old and really fell in love with it about age 8. When I hit high school, my family hit some hard times. It got to the point where it became a choice: Do I put more financial strain on my family or do I quit? So, I quit ... [but] my piano teacher, who became a really close family friend, took me under her wing and ... she [paid] for everything. So, because of that I had a chance to succeed and continue studying. That inspired me to take that model to a bigger level. I wanted to give other students who may come from a situation like mine, the opportunity to succeed.

How does a student qualify to receive assistance?

Right now, the competition that we do have is our essay competition series. High school students can write an essay responding to a quarterly ... competition that we have. The winner is awarded a gift certificate that the Blumenthal has generously donated for us. We're launching our next [contest] and it's for the performance of Cats. So, for Cats, the essay prompts will delve into the literary parts of it. A lot of the songs were written from T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

What do you need to help more students?

Right now, our biggest need is fundraising. We can't launch our scholarship competition until we have the necessary funds. We also need students, teachers and schools to be able to promote the fine arts. Right now, we need people to rally behind us and realize that the performing arts are vital to our community. There isn't an interdisciplinary scholarship program that exists for the sole purpose of providing financial assistance to students who need it in their study of the performing arts.

How are you raising money for the group?

We're having a Kentucky Derby party on May 7. The official name is "Intermezzo Awards presents Derby Day at The Saloon" [located in the N.C. Music Factor]. The Saloon has donated the venue to us, and there is going to be a silent sports auction, live music, drink specials. It's your classic tailgate party for the derby. [Cost] is a $10 donation; the donation and the sports auction goes toward the Intermezzo Awards.

For more information about Hsu and her organization, visit

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