Class project leads to holiday benefit concert for the homeless

Published: Dec. 7, 2012

One student’s class project has led him to see homeless people in a new light. The result of his experience is a holiday concert to benefit the homeless.

Like many people, Joe Cherof, a freshman majoring in business, had walked by homeless musicians playing on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall. Cherof would sometimes toss a couple of dollars into their hat. That all changed the day Cherof noticed a familiar face playing music on the mall.

As part of a class assignment for a writing and rhetoric class, Cherof volunteered with Bridge House, which serves homeless and working poor individuals in Boulder. Cherof had the opportunity to meet Bridge House’s clients. Some of them are musicians who play on Pearl Street Mall.

“It was an epiphany,” said Cherof.  “I recognized this guy from Bridge House. It was the first time I’d seen a homeless musician I knew. And I knew his wife and children. Seeing him gave me the idea for a concert.”

A musician himself, Cherof got the idea to organize a benefit concert to give the musicians a chance to play on a stage and have their performance heard by the community.

The result of this groundswell of support is the Boulder Bridge House Holiday Benefit Concert. The event is being held Monday, Dec. 10, in the Glenn Miller Ballroom in the University Memorial Center on campus from 4 to 7 p.m.  It is open to the public with a $5 donation at the door.

From that initial idea, the project grew to include 36 students in two writing and rhetoric classes. Cherof enlisted the help of Dr. Veronica House, the professor for the writing and rhetoric course and associate director for Service Learning and Outreach for The Program for Writing and Rhetoric. Cherof organized the benefit concert and House adapted the course’s final assignment on writing proposal arguments to have students write letters soliciting donations for the event.

Organizing a concert was not originally part of the writing course, which is a service-learning course in which students work with area non-profits while researching and writing about the social issues that the organizations address. 

“They’re still learning how to tailor a written argument to a particular audience using the rhetorical skills they learned in class,” said House. “Students have to think creatively about the problems they see and how to address that in writing. They start thinking about community efforts as more than just charity work.”

The reception from the community has been overwhelming, according to Cherof.

Musicians will include CU students and Bridge clients and staff. Family-friendly activities include a holiday photo booth, games, food, door prizes, and a silent auction of a variety of items, from restaurant certificates to Broncos gear.

“Hopefully,” said Cherof, “everyone can have that moment that I had when I saw the street musician as a person and not just as a homeless person. And hopefully, by the end of the concert, the community will appreciate how talented some of these musicians are.”