SATURDAY, JULY 22, 12:00 PM
Matt Watroba and Rev. Robert Jones
Ever since their first meeting, over twenty years ago, Robert Jones and Matt Watroba have been musical partners. Their relationship started when they hosted back to back, radio shows on WDET-FM, Detroit. Later on they started performing together and, in doing so, they discovered a friendship based in mutual respect and a love for traditional American music. Now, Matt and Robert literally travel the nation extolling the virtues of “Music That Matters”.
For Matt and Robert, American Roots Music (Folk, Blues, Spirituals, Work Songs, Chants, etc.) is music that matters. This is the music that America and the world have in common. It is music that reflects history, social change, migration, hopes and dreams. It is music that is rich and diverse, direct and powerful. As talented as they are individually, Matt and Robert together form a synergy that hard to describe. Whether for a performance, a workshop or a school presentation any organization would be well served by bringing in this duo.
Veteran performer, teacher, radio host, song writer…the list goes on, but what Matt prefers to be known as is a community singer, song leader and educator.
Matt was born in Detroit and raised in Plymouth, MI. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Michigan University, majoring in English, Language & Literature with a minor in Theatre Arts and Communication. Throughout his high school and college career, Matt performed in a variety of plays and productions inspiring his love and enthusiasm for communicating to an audience from the stage. However, Matt’s main passion gravitated toward music and education.
As a teacher, Matt worked for twelve years in the Plymouth Canton school system. His classes in the areas of English, Journalism and Speech always focused on innovative ways of cross-curricular learning. This experience translated directly to the hundreds of school assemblies and workshops he’s performed with Robert Jones and the Music That Matters programs. He is also a regular instructor at the Swannanoa Gathering near Asheville, NC teaching classes on performance and commuinity singing. His dynamic stage presence and strategy-packed presentations are evidence of someone who understands how to connect with audiences to create a thoroughly worthwhile learning experience.
Matt is a founding member of the National Folk Alliance and a charter member of the Board of Directors for Ann Arbor’s The Ark, both non-profit organizations formed to promote and preserve folk music. Matt is a published writer, having penned dozens of articles and reviews for Sing Out!, the national magazine of American folk and roots music founded by Pete Seeger in 1950.
His love of folk music led him to his position as the host and creator of the popular Folks Like Us program, a position he held for over 20 years on WDET-FM In Detroit. He also produced and hosted the syndicated, Sing Out! Radio Magazine heard on the XM Satellite network as well as the internet service Folk Alley.
Matt sings and writes songs of compassion, inner strength, humor, and every day living. He was awarded “Best Overall Folk Performer” by the Detroit Music Awards for the year 2000, and his long list of credits include the prestigious Ann Arbor Folk Festival, the Detroit 300 Celebration, The Ark, Louisville’s Kentucky Music Weekend, The Fox Valley Festival, Chicago IL, The Old Songs Festival, Guilderland, NY, Owen Sound Folk Festival, Ontario, Canada and hundreds of school and community presentations throughout the Great Lakes region. He has shared the stage with some of our greatest performers, including Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Arlo Guthrie, Christine Lavin, Peter Yarrow, and Richard Thompson. He sings songs that you will feel and remember for a long time. You will love his music, you will love the journey that his music takes you on, and you will love the place that his music takes you to.
Matt brings a unique set of talents to the stage as an educator, performer and master of ceremonies. His passion for bringing community together through music and education is infectious. Add to that Matt’s own special brand of humor and you are in for a most entertaining and enlightening experience.
Reverend Robert Jones, Sr. is an inspirational singer, songwriter, storyteller and self-taught award-winning multi-instrumentalist. He plays guitar, harmonica, mandolin, banjo and fiddle using folk, blues, spirituals and other American Roots music to champion the history, beauty and power of our shared culture.
A lifelong Detroiter, Rev. Jones has been performing professionally for nearly 30 years throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. He has entertained and educated audiences of all ages in schools, colleges, libraries, union halls, prisons, churches and civil rights organizations. His deep love for traditional African American and American music is shared in live performances that interweave timeless stories with original and traditional songs. At the heart of his message is the belief that our cultural diversity tells a story that should celebrate, not just tolerate.
Acclaimed photographer James Fraher writes about Robert: “Perhaps the world’s most highly educated blues musician, an ordained minister, a longtime DJ, and a living encyclopedia of blues history, the Reverend Robert Jones is comfortable among juke joint loud talkers, fancy-hatted church ladies, and PhDs alike.”
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