Music for the masses

Clay Nutting

Photo By Larry Dalton

In 2001, Clay Nutting moved to Sacramento, fell in love with its music scene and knew that his “glorified hobby” could contribute to the community. Nutting is the West Coast regional director of Concerts4Charity, which began in his hometown of Worcester, Mass., as a way to raise awareness and make money for organizations. Now, seven years after its founding, Concerts4Charity has expanded its operations to Michigan, Maine and California. The shows Nutting organizes, such as an event at Harlow’s this weekend, raise money for specific charities and local arts, but they also help fund FireChild, a music-education project that helps students build self-esteem and develop creatively. For more information, visit

How did FireChild start?

Music education had been cut in Sacramento schools, and two friends, Sean Perkey and Aaron Linkin, approached me one day about starting a class. It was founded in November 2004 and so far has been offered to two Rio Linda schools and one Sacramento school as a 10-week class. Currently, we see about 20 kids a trimester at one Rio Linda school and about 30 kids altogether at the other Rio Linda school. We anticipate seeing about 90 kids this year. Last school year, we saw approximately 60 kids at three schools, including the two Rio Linda Schools, and 10 at Pacific Elementary School in the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD). The mission of FireChild is to “ignite a child’s passion for music.”

Where do you get your instruments and equipment?

We buy the guitars and accessories from Skip’s or Klein Music. They both give us good deals on guitars and have been really supportive of what we’re doing. We continue to look for funding to support the classes, but we probably make the most money through our shows. Of the many grants I have written, a couple have gone through. The D’Addario [Foundation for the Performing Arts] and the Bill Graham Foundation have funded a few classes in the SCUSD, but when funding ran out, we just couldn’t support it at that school any longer.

How else do you contribute to local arts?

I am part entrepreneur, part opportunist. When something comes up, and I feel I can lend my talents to the project, do something cool or benefit some organization that needs help, I’m all for it.

Sometimes special circumstances will come up, like Hurricane Katrina, so I’ll do a show to benefit Red Cross. Locally, we have raised money for Stanford Home [for Children] and recently did a show for [the Sacramento] Natural Foods Co-op. They are a really cool part of the community, have education projects and support local growers. … As a national organization, we like to do shows around Christmas benefiting Toys For Tots.

I got involved with Senses magazine, a local publication, by meeting the creator, Marci Landgraf, in her salon while promoting for an event. She was in the process of brainstorming ways to expand her business model, with an interest in creating something beautiful and giving creative people a platform to showcase their artistic passions, and wanted to put a magazine together. Her fourth issue comes out Sunday night, May 14, at Harlow’s. Concerts4Charity helped put together the release party to benefit the magazine. Chelsea Wolfe and Daisy Spot will be playing, and Larry Rodriguez will be spinning.

What could I expect to see at one of your shows?

I never have to struggle in finding artists that are willing to donate their time, and I think that’s a reflection of a really good community of people. Traditionally, I like festival-type shows. It brings out different people with different tastes, but they all end up drinking beers together and having a good time.

For bands to have a good night, the least I can do is make sure that people are there. I take pride in dragging people to shows that never go out, like people at the office or my mom, who lives in the sticks. I’ll be like, “Mom, come watch this show. Support the cause,” and she’ll show up with my aunt, and they’re 50-somethings, checking out a band like the Snobs. I like introducing people to the scene, and the great thing is, as a result, they become a fan of the music, too.

What’s the future hold for Concerts4Charity?

I am just going to continue looking for ways to help people or organizations become successful, especially those involved in the music and art scene. I am interested in starting a music-education program in Midtown. I would love to use Concerts4Charity’s nonprofit status, have a corporate sponsor bring some resources in and make a tax-deductible contribution to purchase a venue or provide an allowance for purchasing talent and advertising. There are win-win situations out there for both the business owners and the artists, and I would be happy to be the liaison. I am willing to do the work. The offer is on the table. Hopefully someone steps up.

It’s all about making time for things that I happen to like to be involved in. Supporting music and art is C4C’s mission, which is a reflection of my personal mission, who I am and what I like to do. Concerts4Charity is kind of my umbrella to make that happen.