Interlochen Arts Academy student Neenah Fuste organizes “Music for Hope” concert to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The March 5 concert will feature performances by Arts Academy students and faculty from across artistic disciplines and genres.

Neenah Fuste

Interlochen Arts Academy student Neenah Fuste

Neenah Fuste remembers a childhood full of singing—until her little brother Mason, then 5 years old, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Over the course of his debilitating chemotherapy treatment, “the music went away for a while,” Fuste recalls. When her brother finally emerged cancer-free and began to regain his strength, Fuste started singing again. “After a three-and-a-half year period of hiding away music, I immediately returned to it and never wanted to let it go,” she says. 

Now a junior at Interlochen Arts Academy studying classical voice under the direction of Laura Osgood Brown, Fuste is organizing a concert to help raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). “Music for Hope” will take place on Saturday, March 5, at 7:30 p.m. at Interlochen’s Dendrinos Chapel and Recital Hall. The program will feature performances by Arts Academy students and faculty from across artistic disciplines and genres. For those unable to attend in person, it will be streamed on the Interlochen website and on Facebook. (No tickets are needed and the concert is free; listeners will be encouraged to make a donation to LLS via Fuste’s official fundraising page.) 

“Music for me is a way of connecting people and spreading hope and happiness,” Fuste says. “I want to bring light to the darkness of cancer. The cancer journey is so very difficult for both patients and families. So many emotions consume you. Our goal with Music for Hope is to share music that evokes many of those emotions. Even though the fear of cancer tries to monopolize your thoughts, it is hope and love that are needed to pull you through.”

In the fall Fuste was nominated to participate in “Students of the Year,” LLS’s prestigious leadership development philanthropy program for high school students. Students create a multigenerational team and lead a seven-week fundraising campaign that culminates with a celebration gala in Madison, Wisconsin on March 11. 

Fuste started her campaign with a fundraising goal of $50,000. If she meets her goal she will get to choose where the funds are allocated at the LLS and would direct them to the Children’s Initiative, a new program that will focus on finding less toxic treatments for pediatric blood cancer patients. “I want to help find better chemotherapy medicines for children,” Fuste says. 

Fuste first got involved with LLS during her brother’s illness. The family attended one of LLS’s “Light the Night” events, where participants gather together for a walk as they hold up lanterns of different colors representing cancer supporters, survivors, and those mourning for people who lost their lives. “We walked the mile loop and my younger brother was very inspired. It gave him hope that everything would be okay,” Fuste says. 

Someone is diagnosed with blood cancer every three minutes, and leukemia is the No. 1 most diagnosed cancer in children.

At Interlochen, Fuste draws inspiration from the core value of citizen artistry and creating art in service to others. “We have so many opportunities here that other students don’t have,” she says. “There’s so much talent, and we should share it with the public to connect people and create positive change.”