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The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on January 12 was an immeasurable tragedy with a ripple effect hitting Boca Raton. Lynn University lost students Stephanie Crispinelli, Britney Gengel, Christine Gianacaci, and Courtney Hayes and faculty members Dr. Richard Bruno and Dr. Patrick Hartwick to the devastating tremor. The six of them were just one day into a three-week humanitarian program organized by South Florida's Food for the Poor.
As soon as Dashboard Confessional frontman and Boca Raton resident Chris Carrabba heard the news of the incalculable disaster, he was "champing at the bit to help out any which way he could." The personable Carrabba, best-known for emotive, acoustic punk singles like "Screaming Infidelities," "Vindicated," and "Don't Wait," spoke to New Times during his tour stop with Bon Jovi in Atlanta. As it turns out, Carrabba and his friend Todd Bachman, a local businessman, were already in the midst of organizing a fundraiser to benefit Boca Raton students looking for endeavors in the art world until "something more immediate and pressing showed its face."
A Boca Raton Community High and Florida Atlantic University grad, Carrabba has called Boca Raton home since the singer's mother moved them down from Hartford, Connecticut, when he was 16. He recently reached out to Lynn University President Dr. Kevin M. Ross, a friend of Bachman's, about his desire to help. "Listen, I don't do much: I play the guitar all right, I can sing a tune; maybe we can do something where we can generate some funds to make a scholarship fund in the name of those who perished," Carrabba said in his initial pitch to Lynn University officials.
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"We were blown away by the offer," says Ross. "It's been a tough semester for us in a lot of ways, and this is a chance to end on a high note."
Ross and his staff almost fell out of their seats when Carrabba proposed a series of concerts to maximize exposure and reach a broader audience. After explaining how much he enjoyed performing with the Louisville Orchestra last year, the group perked up and exclaimed, "We have an orchestra!" That's how Carrabba's showcase with the Lynn Philharmonia, Friday's feature event, took shape.
The day after Lynn University held its memorial service for the departed on March 12, Carrabba personally called and shared the news with the eight Lynn students who survived the Haiti quake. "They immediately whipped out their phones and started texting," according to Ross.
"Everyone on campus is going have a blast," says 20-year-old Lynn sophomore Tom Schloemer, who was one of the eight survivors. Schloemer, who has taken part in several campus activism initiatives, sees the concert as a fantastic way to come together for a good cause. "It's a great way to spotlight the good that groups like [Lynn student organization] Students for the Poor do."
Ross has been impressed with the way Carrabba has handled the programming on such short notice: "When dealing with rock stars, you never know what you are going to get."
In this case, Lynn University and the families of the departed students got an enormous gift. Beginning at 6 p.m., the first event of the evening is an intimate VIP affair with limited tickets featuring Carrabba solo and acoustic in the Schmidt Studio in Lynn's Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center. At 8 p.m., in the Wold Center's 750-seat main space, Carrabba and the Lynn Philharmonia will hold nothing back. And, Bachman says, the events are unique because Boca Raton's young are taking the initiative that is normally left to older members of the community.
Although Friday's concerts can provide the healing powers of music and community and perhaps a sense of closure, Ross knows that Lynn University can never erase the tragedy: "It is a part of who we are."