Kyle Nicolaides and his band Martyrs are well-known for their eclectic “garage-rock” sound, great charisma, and plethora of generous benefit shows. Nicolaides said he strives to “bring people together with good music for a good cause.” Though he is currently living in Los Angeles, pursuing a music career, Nicolaides has played music in the Santa Barbara area for the majority of his life, and he said he misses it dearly.
When the catastrophic earthquake shook Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 12, leaving many tens of thousands dead and injured and over a million homeless, Nicolaides took action. Martyrs and four other Santa Barbara bands began planning a benefit concert at Soho for Haiti, but weren’t sure exactly who to donate the money to after the show.
Meanwhile, another dyed-in-the-wool Santa Barbaran, Jean Weidemann, unknown to Nicolaides, was also looking for a way to help in Haiti.
From the time she was five years old, Weidemann knew that she was made to make a difference in people’s lives globally, and that she had the compassion to do so. By 30, Weidemann had completed her doctorate and become one of the youngest project leaders in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. She began by supervising a project in Nigeria, for four years providing Nigerian women farmers with access to resources to boost their production and their economy. Her project made a significant impact in the area, Weidemann said, and was one of the first field programs to address gender inequality.
Nevertheless, she wanted more personal freedom, as well as a different organizational structure for helping people. So, in 1986, Weidemann went on to found Weidemann Associates, now a successful international socio-economic consulting firm, serving as its president until 2000. In 1998, she founded the Weidemann Foundation and has served as its president ever since. The Weidemann Foundation is a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit whose mission is to identify and collaborate with other organizations conducting self-sustaining, micro-lending, and community development projects throughout the world.
When the earthquake hit Haiti, Weidermann and her foundation began working closely with Fonkoze, a micro-finance institution that offers numerous financial services to the rural poor in Haiti, and has many local ties to Santa Barbara. (Fonkoze, by the way, is an acronym for “Fondasyon Kole Zepól” which translates roughly as “shoulder-to-shoulder foundation” in Haitian.)
Though leading their efforts separately, Nicolaides came into contact with Weidemann through a mutual connection. The result: On February 17, after much planning and effort, the Weidemann Foundation along with the Martyrs, Verna Beware, Loomis and The Lust, The Windmill Vandals, and Sierra Reeves collaborated to put on a benefit concert for Haiti at Soho in downtown Santa Barbara. All of the musicians were between the ages of 16 and 23, and all are Santa Barbara locals. Overall, about 130 people attended the event and $870 was raised to donate to Fonkoze.
The venerable Russian author Leo Tolstoy once said, “Music is love in search of a voice.” The combination of music and heart at the February 17 benefit was outstanding. Weidemann herself said that she had a reinforced faith in the up-and-coming generation. The successful collaboration is hard evidence that when you are genuinely passionate about something, and have a general care for the world around you, you can make a difference.
To hear more from the bands that played at Soho, please see websites listed below.
Verna Beware: http://www.myspace.com/vernabeware
Loomis and the Lust: http://www.loomisandthelust.com/
The Windmill Vandals: http://www.myspace.com/oddjob805
Sierra Reeves: http://www.myspace.com/sierrareeves