Music feeds our soul and food keeps us alive. These two necessities will combine in a special fundraiser next Thursday, Oct. 20 at Sound Conservatory, 1600 2nd Ave., Rock Island.
Andrzej Kozlowski — who owns the seven-month-old music school and store — is playing his part to help bring an end to hunger in our community, by partnering with NEST Cafe of the Quad Cities, 1524 4th Ave., Rock Island.
The Oct. 20 benefit will feature a performance by Roots of Rhythm Trio, performing early-style jazz along with jazz precursors and interpretations of less well-known songs. The net result is a fresh take on traditional and early jazz.
With the performance, guests will enjoy a tasteful dinner catered by NEST (Nourish Everyone Sustainably Together) Cafe, featuring a three-course meal.
Proceeds from the event will go to NEST and their efforts to expand their meal offerings during the coming holiday season.
“We believe no one should ever worry about being able to put food on their table and together we can make everyone’s holiday season a happy and well-nourished one,” Kozlowski said.
Growing up poor
He and his sister (immigrants from Poland) were raised in a poor household on Long Island, N.Y., by a single father (their mother left them), in a 700-square-foot apartment.
“We were fortunate, growing up in New York, the school system had good meal-plan programs for underprivileged families,” he said recently. “I’ve always admired the concept of ‘pay what you can’ restaurants. To me, food should be a right.”
“To struggle with nourishment because of hardships in life, I don’t think that’s right, knowing how that feels, having been in that position,” Kozlowski said. “When you’re an immigrant, you don’t speak the language.”
When he found out about NEST Café opening around the same time he opened his first location (at 2235 3rd Ave., Rock Island), he took a big interest in them and has been a regular customer ever since.
“Once we start growing, I want to partner with that organization,” Kozlowski said of his thoughts. “Our goal with this partnership is to have a performance with NEST Café doing the catering.”
Much bigger space
Sound Conservatory outgrew its original location and moved to a much larger building, the former 1901 Illinois Theatre. Kozlowski has the showroom and teaching studios on the ground floor; plans to renovate the second floor into a new 400-seat performance space and music history museum, and luxury condominiums on the top floor.
They want to raise money for the upcoming holiday season, so NEST Café can expand their offerings, Kozlowski said.
“When I think about people not being able to eat during the holidays, that’s not right,” he said.
The NEST concept is offering suggested donations for their meals.
“They’re trying to kill the stigma of, just because you don’t have money, you shouldn’t have the right to eat healthy,” Kozlowski said. “The other aspect I love about it, their chef is a phenomenal chef. Their food is delicious – we eat lunch there regularly.”
“We absolutely love it, and their food is cooked from scratch,” he said. “It’s healthy meals that aren’t just calorically dense. They’re nutritionally dense.”
“We live in a country where the poverty levels are through the roof,” Kozlowski said. “We’re the richest country in the world.”
“We have an opportunity here to help fight that, and having an organization like NEST that provides that – it’s just a perfect storm,” he said. “People can come enjoy great music and great food, all while helping people be able to do the same for themselves and their family. This is just the beginning of our partnership with NEST.”
Longer partnership with cafe
Sound Conservatory plans to have ongoing events like this, and work with NEST Café for catering a majority of other events. They did provide hors d’oeuvres for the Sept. 24 Sound Conservatory fundraiser and Kozlowski got very positive feedback.
“The response on the food was just incredible; the crab cakes were amazing,” he said. “It was high-quality food, so for us to be able to offer that kind of great food for our programs, while helping an organization raise money, it’s all a win.”
Richard Wagor, the Roots of Rhythm trio’s bass player, is a Sound Conservatory teacher.
They started with six teachers in the new space this summer, and have grown to 11, serving 160 total students.
Kas Shewell, a young singer-songwriter (and voice student), is now working at the front desk.
“She is one of my students and having a musician who’s moving into professional performing, working on staff is the perfect storm that I’m looking for,” Kozlowski said.
They’re also starting guitar repair and servicing, and will add a piano rebuilding factory. Kozlowski does piano tuning, repair and rebuilding, and is working with Gene Taets at Sound Conservatory.
There are about 16 pianos on the display floor, including some that have been sold.
“One thing I’ve been putting a lot of attention into is finding pianos that are great for their price point, so that way people can express interest in an instrument and not feel like they have to fork out their life savings,” Kozlowski said.
They have a pristine Steinway from 1967, for $16,000. “You’re not gonna find that at any other store,” he said. There’s a seven-foot Baldwin concert grand also for $16,000 and a Wurlitzer upright piano for $3,600.
A social hour Oct. 20 will be from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and the performance and dinner will begin at 6:30. Tickets are $40/seat minimum donation, available HERE. Tickets must be purchased online; they will not be available at the door.
For more information on Sound Conservatory, click HERE.