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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 20, 2006

Concert raises money, spirits

By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Staff Writer

Two months after a fire destroyed a beloved major building at University Laboratory School, about 1,000 parents, teachers and students packed into the Andrews Ampitheatre yesterday to hear good music, heal and move forward.

The benefit concert at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, which sold more than 1,000 tickets at $30 a head, was organized to help pay for theater costumes, musical instruments, athletic gear and other supplies lost in the June 13 blaze.

Fire officials later determined the blaze was intentionally set.

Vice principal Keoni Jeremiah said the concert was also aimed at healing. "We knew we needed to do something," he said. "Everybody's in the mindset of moving forward."

Classes start tomorrow, and students and teachers will have to adjust to life without the multipurpose building. Until October, when three portables are expected to arrive, the orchestra, chorus, theater and athletics programs will share space with other classes.

But Jeremiah said there is reason for hope: The programs housed in the destroyed building have gotten lots of support and will continue to go strong. "We've all been working really hard to get them in order," he said.

People began filing into the ampitheater about 3:30 p.m. yesterday, filling up stadium seating and laying blankets for picnics.

The first musicians included Lab School students, playing everything from rock to jazz.

Later came the headliners: Na Leo, the Brothers Cazimero, Andy Bumatai and others. All of the musicians performed for free, and sponsors also provided free food.

As contemporary Hawaiian music poured out of the ampitheater yesterday afternoon, Karen Whalen folded benefit T-shirts at a booth just outside.

She said the fire shocked and saddened the school community but also brought a cross-section of people together as they searched for ways to help. The concert, she said, is just a beginning.

"This building can't be replaced," said Whalen, whose daughter started at the school in kindergarten and is now in eighth grade. "But this is a start."

Sandra Murakami, whose son will also start eighth grade tomorrow, said she cried when she saw the building in flames. She added the concert will likely be the first in a series of benefits for the school as it rebuilds. "It's not just a one-time thing," Murakami said. "It might be years that it takes the school to rebuild."

Michael Tokushige, president of the school's booster club, said support from parents in the wake of the fire has been overwhelming. Some 420 kindergarten through 12th-grade students attend the school, which is acclaimed for its cutting-edge curriculum and heavy emphasis on extracurricular programs.

"There are parents everywhere," Tokushige said, panning the crowd. "So much is lost. We need to support the Lab School ... so that kids don't miss a beat."

Reach Mary Vorsino at mvorsino@honoluluadvertiser.com.