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SMA fundraiser for Harry Miller a night to remember

The stars came out on Friday, and they weren't just sparkling in the night sky. They were also onstage at Ta'alolo Lodge—  they were the *stars* of the music scene here in American Samoa, and they sang and played their hearts out as only island musicians can.


It was  fellowship, friendship, concern and care rolled up into one big fundraiser for fellow musician and entertainer, Harry Miller, and the love and goodwill that put it all together was evident and on display.


With energy and lots of heart, the many talented musicians and singers who shared the stage delivered everything from old standards to Santana, from Hawaiian paniolo to the backwoods bayou, from traditional Samoan sivas to rock and good-old-fashioned-roll. They brought verve and fun to a very special evening, as they entertained an eclectic and appreciative crowd who danced, clapped and sang with them into the wee hours of the morning, and all for a good cause.


The event was planned quickly according to Chande Lutu-Drabble, hostess extraordinaire and owner of Ta'alolo Lodge & Golf Resort, which has seen its share of great parties. She told Samoa News that when she and fellow entertainers heard, just last week, about the situation with their friend, they wanted to help, and they wanted to do it soon.


Harry Miller, it's fair to say, is a guitar legend in these parts; his mellow jazz is his “forte” as a fellow musician noted, and his bluesy rock music is without peer. A few weeks ago at a church function where he was lending his talents, he collapsed according to his daughter, Tasi, who was there at Ta'alolo Lodge representing the family, along with one of her brothers, Harry Jr.  She spent the evening taking pictures of well-wishers to send off to New Zealand, where Harry and his wife, Monica have gone for medical care.


No stranger to care-giving through catastrophic illness, Chande took the lead, provided the venue, and sent out the word along the coconut wireless. Along with the members of the newly re-established Samoa Musicians Association, she and many others lent their support and assistance to their fellow muse, their island brother.


(Founded about 20 years ago, the first SMA included just three women: Chande, Ruth Tuiteleleapaga and Jennifer Joneson. When Tuiteleleapaga read about the fundraiser online, she immediately dispatched money to support the event, according to organizers.)


Another well-known Samoan entertainer, Dennis Ah Yek, called in with a sizeable donation.


“It’s just who we are” said one local guest. “We do these things, we help one another in their hour of need.”


Knowing the financial strain which comes with battling cancer, the musicians donated their time, talents, energy, goodwill and money to the fundraiser for Harry Miller.


Donations came from every corner of the community, according to Chande, who said many people immediately pitched in, and called to see how they could help.


She noted three members of the SMA in particular, who were instrumental in putting it all together: Si'uleo 'Chico' Pouesi, Doug Smith and Ulale Pusi.  She said that without their help, the fundraiser wouldn't have been the successful event it was. She also credited Sandra King-Young and Alofia Lobendahn Afalava for their steadfast help at the door.


Harry and Monica’s ‘church family’ of Fatu-o-aiga shared the night with the musicians, members of the media, artists, business leaders, legislators, administration staff, sports enthusiasts, local military reps, and retirees.


GHC Reid & Co. Ltd., always with a heart for the community, stepped up to donate beer, water and soda for the event. 


Others who should be noted for their contributions are Solop Hong of KS Mart, Gary Blizzard of Panamex and Tom Atkinson of Cost-U-Less, said Chande, who said that these were among numerous businesses who donated, and all will be gratefully acknowledged.


And then there was—the fabulous music. With Fagafaga as master of ceremonies, the musicians took turns entertaining, each in their special way. The surprise of the evening came when the children of Chico Pouesi took the stage. Calling themselves the “Mad Hatters” they delivered flawless covers of such diverse artists as Adele, Santana and Hall and Oats.


They were the hit of the evening, and it should be noted, Harry Miller has been their music teacher for several years.


Almost $6,000 was raised by the end of the evening.


Those who participated, donated, and worked hard to make it happen are the good people of American Samoa. In concert with the musicians, it is the people of Motu o Fiafiaga who are sending out their best ‘get well’ wishes to Harry and Monica and their family, and who are “just happy to help.”