For homeless shelter, a night of music

Homeless shelters don’t get a lot of in-house entertainment, but Stu and Janna Zonder are out to change that.

The Zonders, who moved to Asheville about 18 months ago from Atlanta, brought their musical act to Asheville-Buncombe Christian Community Ministry’s homeless shelter for veterans on Tunnel Road on Jan. 24. It was the first of what the couple hopes will become regular performances for them in local shelters.

Click the image above to view a slideshow by Jason Sandford.

As shelter residents stood in line for the night’s dinner offering, the Zonders warmed up. On stage, they call themselves the SoulMates. (“We’ve been married 27 years,” Janna Zonder informed the crowd, setting up her punch-line. “I guess you call that a life sentence.” The couple met when Janna signed up to take guitar lessons from Stu.)

With Stu on the guitar and Janna on bass, the duo launched into renditions of songs by everyone from Tom Petty to Prince. As the night wore on, audience members called out requests and the Zonders light-heartedly played what they knew, joked when they didn’t, and filled the room with Patsy Cline, the Rolling Stones and even a little Leon Redbone.

Why play homeless shelters? The couple have been involved in music for years, and wanted to get back into performing. Janna Zonder says it’s just a way to give back to the community during tough economic times. “You start to get focused on your own problems and this is a way to have some fun and take your mind off that.” Stu Zonder adds that it’s simply about “keeping love alive,” a tagline he uses to sign his e-mails.

And the times are tough. Stu Zonder,  a regional account executive with Chase, was recently laid off and hopes to land a job working on sustainability issues. Janna, a writer, is working on getting her first novel published and is looking for work in the field of writing and copy editing.

Meantime, the Zonders want the community to know they’re available for gigs. E-mail the Zonders at zonders@charter.net.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor

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