Check out HousingFest this Saturday for Grammy-winning music benefitting Moore Place
Posted on 20 Feb 2014 by Keia Mastrianni
HousingFest is Saturday, Feb 22 @ the Neighborhood Theatre. Tickets available online.
An introduction was all it took. A boyish Robert Nesbit explains his longtime love affair with music over a cup of coffee one morning. His animated eyes, even at seven in the morning, are alive with energy and palpable joy as he tells me about the first time he held a guitar in his hands at the age of 12. The Statesville native turned Charlottean, says that music has been an all-consuming passion since he first discovered it through a music-loving uncle. Much more than its sensory pleasures, music plays a powerful role in Nesbit’s life, one that ultimately led him to a career in social work and one that continues to inspire his actions.
In less than a week, Nesbit’s love of music and people will intersect at the Neighborhood Theatre for Charlotte’s very first concert to end homelessness. The concert on Saturday, February 22 features the Grammy award winning Blind Boys of Alabama and Americana legend (also Grammy award-winning) Jim Lauderdale for an event that started out, Nesbit says, as a “pipe dream”.
As a young teenager, Nesbit received a wayfaring musical education from regional blues legend Max Drake who would tote the boy to gigs, sneaking him into late night clubs. A seminal figure in Nesbit’s life, Drake introduced him to the sounds of B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Lightning Hopkins, to name a few. Besides that, Nesbit’s experiences brought him in contact with individuals who suffered from addiction and alcoholism– people who needed help. Inspired by those experiences and an altruistic grandfather who impressed the importance of having a positive impact on the community, Nesbit followed his desire toward a career in social work.
Today, Nesbit is a senior social worker at Moore Place, the 85-unit permanent supportive housing complex born out of the Urban Ministry Center in January 2012. He works daily with individuals who battled chronic homelessness, now housed based on the organization’s foundational philosophy, “Housing First.” This philosophy posits that housing is a fundamental right for every human being, no matter their circumstance. The Housing First approach believes that homeless people, first and foremost, need a home before they can rightly address common issues that often accompany homelessness such as addiction, lack of employment, mental health issues and other social barriers.
Last year, Nesbit and his co-worker Katie Church, the Tenant Services Coordinator at Moore Place, discussed a fundraising event in anticipation of the upcoming expansion of Moore Place. The housing complex seeks to add 35 more housing units to house Charlotte’s most vulnerable population. Both Church and Nesbit come from musical backgrounds. The demure Church is classically trained in violin while Nesbit has been gigging with regional blues luminaries since his teenage years.
“At first, we discussed some small community based event,” says Church. “But then we thought of the power of music to create movements and decided to think big.”
Inspired by famous historical movements like the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-Apartheid movement, Nesbit and Church believe that music has the power to effect change. Why not a movement to end homelessness built on the unifying thread of music?
“My really big dream is to get major artists to play in rotating cities and bring the larger community together for the cause, like Farm Aid,” says Nesbit.
At the encouragement of Church, Nesbit moved forward in his pursuit of big artists using his industry connections. One thing led to another and their big idea booked Americana legend (and Troutman-born), Jim Lauderdale and the award-winning gospel group, The Blind Boys of Alabama.
“For Robert, music is truly a place of great gladness — he deeply loves music and is a talented musician in his own right. Through HousingFest, Robert strives to share that musical passion with Charlotte to meet a great and urgent need of ending homelessness for vulnerable men and women,” says Caroline Chambre, Director of Urban Ministry Center’s HousingWorks program.
Chambre, who has worked tirelessly on housing solutions for the homeless, believes that HousingFest will shine a light on the Housing First solution rather than the problem.
“Urban Ministry Center’s HousingWorks program — Moore Place and our community-based scattered site program — is ending homelessness. The program changes lives and saves our community money,” says Chambre.
For Nesbit, this concert is an expression of his lifelong passion of music coupled with his desire to help others. The work he’s found at Moore Place including the upcoming concert for a cause turns out to be the other perfect fit.
HousingFest is this Saturday, February 22 at the Neighborhood Theatre. Robert Nesbit will be opening with the HousingFest “House Band” followed by Jim Lauderdale and The Blind Boys of Alabama. Tickets on sale here via the Neighborhood Theatre.