Detroit: Twenty Minutes Apart, A Musical Discussion About Neighborhoods, Race and Change

Presented by Robert Jones and Matt Watroba


“Detroit: Twenty Minutes Apart” is a stage presentation that explores the neighborhood, family and musical experiences of two musicians that grew up in very different neighborhoods, 20 minutes apart. One grew up in Detroit and the other in Plymouth, but they found commonality in art, music and a 30-year friendship.



About the Artist

Robert B Jones, Sr. (lead artist) is a Detroit Musician, Educator, and Pastor and is a 2018 Kresge Fellow. Robert has presented his American Roots Music In Education (ARMIE) presentations for over 250,000 students over the past 30 years. In 2007 he was presented with a Keeping The Blues Award for Education, by the National Blues Society. Robert has performed, taught and lectured on many aspects of African American Roots music in schools, colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada. As a musician and performer he has been featured at venues and festivals as the New Bedford Folk Festival (MA), Wheatland Folk Festival (Remus, MI), Detroit Jazz Festival, and Salmon Arm Roots &Blues Fest. (British Columbia, Canada), just to name a few. He is a nationally recognized storyteller with both appearances and residencies at the National Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, TN.

Along with his project collaborator, Matt Watroba, Robert is the co-founder of Common Chords, a nonprofit program that seeks to connect communities through music and stories. Jones is the former producer and host of two award winning blues and gospel radio shows, “Blues From the Lowlands” and “Deep River.” A published writer, Robert has contributed essays to Robert Tilling’s “Oh Glory How Happy I Am”, and M. L. Liebler’s “Heaven Was Detroit”. He has performed in the lead role of Kresge Eminent Artist Bill Harris’ play, “Robert Johnson, Trick the Devil”, and Robert reprised his role during “The Kresge Honors”, held at Masonic Temple this February. Robert is a lifelong Detroiter. He is a husband, a father and a grandfather, and he has pastored the Sweet Kingdom Missionary Baptist Church on Detroit’s eastside for 15 years.

Matt Watroba - Matt was born in Detroit and raised in Plymouth, MI. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Michigan University, majoring in English Language & Literature with a minor in Theatre Arts and Communication. As a teacher, Matt worked for 12 years in the Plymouth Canton school system. However, Matt’s work as a high school teacher doesn’t begin to encompass all of his work as an educator. Matt has toured the country with his musical partner and friend of 30 years, Robert Jones. Together they tell America’s diverse story through the window of roots music.

Matt’s love of folk music led him to his position as host and creator of the popular “Folks Like Us” program, which he held for over 20 years on WDET-FM In Detroit. He now produces and hosts “Folk With Matt Watroba” for Michigan State Public Media in East Lansing. Inspired by the work of Pete Seeger, Matt also devotes much of his professional musical career to teaching and leading community sings in the Detroit area and across the country. For the past three years, Matt has led songs on bus tours for the Living Legacy Pilgrimage program, retracing the paths of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. He brings a unique set of talents to the stage as an educator, performer and master of ceremonies. His passion for bringing community together through music and education is infectious. Add to that Matt's own special brand of humor and you will see why he is a respected and sought-after presenter in the world of folk and roots music. He is also a radio host and producer, a music journalist, father, husband, teacher, and new inductee to the Folk Alliance International Folk D.J. Hall of Fame.