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Common Chords was established in 2018 as a way to directly address issues of race and equity.  Matt and Robert discovered that their audiences, more often than not, commented on how they were impacted on how the duo communicated with one another as much as the music that they had just heard.

They began to explore what had allowed them to work so well together, in spite of coming from two, supposedly, different backgrounds.  They came to understand that their shared values and commonalities were more important to them than their personal differences. The question arose, could the things that they had learned working with one another be taught to others who couldn't get past their differences?  Matt and Robert started working to discover the things that separate people, and to work to tear those things down. 

Our methods are simple.  We use music and stories as a means to have conversations that are otherwise difficult.  Music and stories bypass the brain go to straight to heart .  They move us past "tolerance", the things we have to put up with, to celebration, the things that we enjoy.

Over the years Robert and Matt have brought their programs to businesses like the Ford Motor Company, Matrix Human Services, The Ark in Ann Arbor and institutions like Oakland County Schools, The University of Michigan, and the  Tupelo Public School system.  Always the message is the same, the values that we have in common are more important than our differences.


portrait by Barbara Barefield_n.jpg
portrait by Barbara Barefield_n.jpg

Rev. Robert Jones, Sr.

Robert B Jones, Sr. is a Detroit Musician, Educator, and Pastor and is a 2018 Kresge Fellow. Robert has presented his American Roots Music In Education (ARMIE) presentations for over 250,000 students over the past 30 years.  In 2007 he was presented with a Keeping The Blues Award for Education, by the National Blues Society.


Robert has performed, taught and lectured on many aspects of African American Roots music in schools, colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada.  As a musician and performer he has been featured at venues and festivals as the New Bedford Folk Festival (MA), Wheatland Folk Festival (Remus, MI), Detroit Jazz Festival, and Salmon Arm Roots &Blues Fest. (British Columbia, Canada), just t name a few.  He is also a nationally recognized storyteller with both appearances and residencies at the National Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, TN.  

Matt Watroba

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.  As a teacher, Matt worked for 12 years in the Plymouth Canton school system. 


Matt has led songs on bus tours for the Living Legacy Pilgrimage program, retracing the paths the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.  He 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 will see why he is a respected and sought-after presenter in the world of folk and roots music.  He is also a radio host and producer, Matt journalist, is a music journalist, father, husband, teacher, and new inductee to the Folk Alliance International Folk D.J. Hall of Fame.

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