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September 22, 2006

Honolulu Boy Choir saved by state grant

Honolulu Star Bulletin (HI):

The Honolulu Boy Choir is singing a happy tune over an award of state money that will cover the nonprofit organization's $150,000 annual budget. A contract awarded by the state Department of Human Services will be "a strong foundation" for the choir as it rebuilds, board Chairman Gary Saito said in an announcement yesterday.

The choir board sought and won the contract, available for a theatrical arts program for youngsters who could be at risk of dropping out of school or using drugs. "The boys are from 7 to 14, and that is the age where kids could end up at risk," said Saito. "It helped that we are trying to do a program available to kids statewide."

The choir was threatened earlier this year with being disbanded after 32 years as a fixture at public events, holiday concerts and conventions. The former board announced that it would shut down the organization after five years of financial struggles. The board granted a reprieve in May after families of the singers reorganized with a strategy for survival. They crafted a business plan that requires continuing fundraising to cover liability insurance, rental of storage and rehearsal space and salaries of the choral director, accompanist and executive director.

Saito said a call from Gov. Linda Lingle's office was one of the first offers of help when the threat of closing generated community support for the choir. "The state pointed us toward available grants and contracts."

Saito was elected chairman of the new 12-member board, which includes two choir alumni. The old board resigned in May to make way for new members with new energy. The exact amount of the state contract will be announced at a Monday ceremony at Makiki Christian Church, the choir's home base. Saito said the board was informed it "is in the neighborhood of $150,000."

"It gives us a big breathing space without worrying about making ends meet," he said. The choir continues to seek contributions from individuals and corporations. "We will try to build up financial security. We are looking forward to re-establishing the whole system."

There is also a drive to increase the numbers in the ranks. The choir is down to 30 singers from a peak of nearly 100. With the threat of closing, some parents withdrew their sons from the choir, Saito said, and in the past few months 12 boys "graduated" as they reached the age of voice change. The choir does not charge boys tuition. Meanwhile, the choir's busy season approaches. The choir usually is booked for at least 25 performances between Thanksgiving and early January, Saito said.

Posted by acapnews at September 22, 2006 12:02 AM