The Amazing Pete Schroth: Mixing Art And Giving

Nov 30th, 2011 | By | Category: Misc, News

I’d like to preface this interview by saying that I’m quite focused on sustainable giving, and when I was thinking about a person to interview, Pete Schroth came to mind specifically because of his son Otto’s haircut party a few months back. Generally speaking, if you see a child doing something awesome, it’s because they’re seeing the importance of giving from family and friends. (And in case you don’t know, Pete is the stage manager/lighting designer for The Avett Brothers. Pretty awesome stuff.)

Trans-NC Express

It’s difficult at times to talk about the need to do something good for others without sounding sappy and insincere, but it’s obvious that you’re quite serious about doing so. Can you track any of this back to what planted that seed?

There’s a lot of different things that have happened over the last few years that have pushed me in this direction.   One, in particular, was when I came home from a long trip on the road and there was a group of friends who had rallied around Tim LaFollette and Britt Harper Uzzell…two ailing friends.  My wife had opened her sewing studio to them and it was a busy beehive of good intentions.  All these people working together to make quilts so that Tim and Britt would know that they were not alone in their struggles.  It was a major turning point to me that my “problems” weren’t really problems at all and that I needed to get involved and help in whatever way I could.

I keep reading about how the weakened economy has actually caused people to donate more money and time…in the efforts that you’ve been a part of, have you noticed this?

I have noticed this.  We have all had a taste of struggle.  I believe a troubled economy has forced people into getting their priorities in order.  We aren’t as wasteful as we used to be.  In the past I may have spent $10 on an impulse buy, but now I can take that $10 and send it to someone who needs it or I could use it to make something that will put a smile on somebody’s face.   I used to believe money was somewhat evil, but it really just depends upon how you use it.

For people out there who don’t feel like they have any money to give, what are some ways that they can make a contribution?

It is endless.  If somebody is down on their luck…if you can somehow put a smile on their face or just give them a moment of calm, that can be huge.  You can mow somebody’s yard.  You can draw a picture.  You can pick some flowers.  Just a simple phone call to say hello and ask how they are doing can be the necessary positive moment they needed.

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of using music and art to raise money since Midge Ure and Bob Geldof did Band Aid and Live Aid. (I mention Ure here simply because I love him and he rarely gets credit since Geldof rhymes with show off.) We do still see loads of musicians coming together for various causes, but does it still have the same power to amaze us that it once did? I feel a bit cynical about it at times, as if it’s more for a public political stance than anything else.

I think it is still happening, but maybe not so publicly and maybe not on such a large scale.  I know The Avett Brothers are constantly working with various charities .  On a local scale you see things like Snüzzfest, Joe G.’s Coverband Explosion, and all the Lungs For Lee events.  Creative people are always going to be sympathetic to others.  I think that is part of who they are.

Tax deductions are obviously a big draw for people when donating money, especially as they rush to get those tax write-offs before the end of the year. Any plans to try and capitalize on this for any local projects?

I am horrible at doing taxes.  I just give what I can, when I can.

How can we better help our artists and musicians participate in charitable events while still earning a proper living?

If done properly, a charitable event will draw a large and perhaps untapped audience.  It is the perfect opportunity to get yourself out in front of people who may have never heard your music before…and you get to walk away at the end of the day knowing you have helped someone.

I was quite impressed with your son Otto (whose hair I totally coveted) donating that gorgeous mane to Locks of Love. How did you come to get involved with that and throw such an amazing party? Any plans to do something like that again?

That was his idea…he’s an awesome dude.  He saw that Seth Avett from The Avett Brothers did it and he decided on his own that he wanted to do the same thing.  I enjoy a good party so my wife and I took his idea and just made it a little bit bigger…get more people involved.  He is currently growing his hair out again.  It is amazing to watch a 9 year old child understand that he has the capability to help somebody he may never meet.  He saw that and he acted on it.  The kid has a great heart.

Speaking of getting kids involved in helping while they’re young, let’s talk about how we can get more involved with school programs. Our kids all go to Lindley Elementary and there are many opportunities to get involved with different events there, but overall in the city schools, are we doing enough?

Think globally and act locally, right?  I can’t talk to Barack Obama, but I can talk to the principal at my kids’ school.  You have a voice.  Use it.  It has always been a problem for me to understand that some public schools are “better” than others.  It seems to me they should all be equal, right?  Maybe we need to step outside of our own schools and help the other schools as well.

How can businesses do more to help right now? How can busy business owners get better connected to the needs of local people? I’m lucky enough to have a truly amazing (and well-connected) group of employees, and I have several family members and friends who alert me to what I can do, but what about people who truly want to do something yet don’t really know where to look?

Katie Southard, over at The Green Bean, has taken on one charity every month and helped them out through donating a percentage of sales, but also setting up a display where folks can learn about the organizations and make donations on their own.  I think the key is keeping charitable deeds fresh in people’s minds.  As humans I believe we understand good and bad and 99% of us want to be the good in the world…we just need a nudge every now and again.

Last question: what are some ideas for sustainable giving on a local level? How can we (pardon this please) give the gift that keeps on giving?

Lead by example.  Get the word out.  Show people what they are capable of.  Good deeds grow exponentially.

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