Musical honors bestowed upon the Washburn ohana

Gary Washburn, music director of the award-winning Honokaa High School Jazz Band; son Mocha Washburn, an HHS alumnus; and brother Kent of Los Angeles — as members of the legendary ’60s dance band “The Shadow Lake Eight,” were inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame on Nov. 16. Following the induction, the band performed in concert at The Jazz Depot in Tulsa.

A family musical journey that began in Oklahoma and traveled across the country, the Washburns have made names for themselves individually and together — as educators, composers, producers, record executives and superlative musicians — over the last 50 years. Gary Washburn joined The Shadow Lake Eight in 1962 at the age of 15 when he was still in high school. After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in music, he received a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii, and pursued a doctorate in music at Boston University. He worked in Los Angeles as a writer/arranger for Motown, and then moved back to the Island of Hawaii, where he became a composer, musician and school teacher.

His award-winning concept of high school band is unique, geared toward teaching students how to become popular music performers, and many have moved into the entertainment industry. In 2010, Gary was awarded the “Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction Award” and in 2011 his program received an award from the Grammy Foundation for its unique and outstanding band program.

“I don’t do marching bands,” said Washburn. “What good is that going to be for musically inclined students in this day and age? I teach them how to compete in today’s real music market — Rock and Roll.” In 2013, Washburn was named “A Living Hawaiian Treasure” by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, and honored in a proclamation from the state Senate.

Even with his extensive education, Washburn attributes his successes as an educator and performer to the years he spent playing with the Shadow Lake Eight. “That was my real education and what I use as the basis to teach kids the real value of music,” said Washburn, who resides and teaches in Honokaa with wife Linaka Morton-Washburn.

Son Mocha Washburn is the latest addition to The Shadow Lake Eight, joining with them in 2013 for a reunion concert in Ponca City in June. With early musical training from his father, Mocha played in the HHS Jazz Band until his graduation in 1996. He attended the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., graduating with a degree in philosophy and a music minor in 2000. He then went to Hollywood and attended the prestigious Guitar Institute of Technology at Musicians Institute for two years, graduating with honors and receiving the Tommy Tedesco Memorial Award for Most Outstanding Student. As his personal preference is live performance, as opposed to studio work, Mocha eventually moved to Austin, Texas, known as “The Live Music Capital of the World,” where he plays with various local groups and performs regularly as a solo artist at numerous venues.

In 1958, Jimmy Trease put together a band made up of college students who formed the “Jimmy Trease &The Shadow Lake Seven.” Kent Washburn joined The Shadow Lake Eight in the fall of 1960, and remained with the group, functioning as the leader from 1962 through 1967.

In 1965, they became friends with Charlie Daniels, (at that time Charlie and The Jaguars), who helped get them booked into the Vanguard Lounge in Cocoa Beach, Fla. What brought the band to its end was the Vietnam War. Gary Washburn returned to school, eventually moving to Hawaii where he built a Grammy Award-winning music program in Honokaa. Kent Washburn ended up in the music business, eventually moving to Los Angeles and working as a record producer for Motown, RCA and Warner Brothers.

In 2013, the band reunited in Ponca City, Okla., and Mocha Washburn joined them on guitar, and on Nov. 16, Gary, Kent and Mocha joined other legendary musicians in the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, and enjoyed a reunion concert with the Shadow Lake Eight. For more information about the Shadow Lake Eight, visit

The Washburns look forward to the highly-anticipated release of Gary’s original music, “Earth Life: October Full Moon,” coming soon on EmKay Records. For more information, visit “Earth Life: October Full Moon” on Facebook or

The Honokaa Elementary School/Scholastic “It’s a Reading Oasis-Book Fair!” is coming Dec. 13-14 to the Honokaa Cafeteria. Come on Friday night from 5-8 p.m. for lots of fun with crafts, games, prizes and many many great books. On Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, enjoy “A Cool Place to Discover Hot Books.”

This event is open to the public; please come and visit the book fair for fun activities and lots of books, just in time for Christmas giving.

Honokaa Public Library will be closed to the public from Wednesday, Dec. 11, through Friday, Dec. 13, for termite tenting. The library will be open for business on Monday, Dec. 16, at 11 a.m. The book drops will be inaccessible while the tent is over the building. After the tent is removed, patrons may place books in the book drops. For more information, please call the library at 775-8881.

Carol Yurth’s column is published every Sunday and spotlights activities on the Hilo-Hamakua coast. She welcomes items for her column. Reach her by mail (46-1250 Kalehua Road, Honokaa HI 96727) at least 10 days before the requested publication date, call her at 775-7101, or email


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