A ‘return to fun’: Service raises money for musicians, local charities

Effort matches musicians with residents eager to host charity events.

Pat Oberstaedt (right) and Rachel Weisbart (left), who form the musical group “The Gender Gnomes,” perform at a home concert. The pair are part of House Concerts for a Cause.

No one has been immune to the effects of COVID. Two groups that have especially felt those effects are charitable organizations and musicians. With people less inclined to donate and musicians out of work, both groups have fallen on difficult times.

Just before the start of the pandemic, Cherry Hill resident Mark Oberstaedt had an idea to match musicians with people eager for live entertainment, all while raising money for local causes. While the pandemic temporarily put his plans on hold, with vaccinations rolling out and the weather heating up, he’s eager to raise money for local musicians and charities with House Concerts for a Cause.

Around Thanksgiving 2019, Oberstaedt was helping to organize a charity concert to benefit Joseph’s House of Camden. Speaking with attendees, he learned there was an interest in live entertainment with a charitable aspect, and it got him thinking.

Oberstaedt spoke with his son, Pat Oberstaedt — who performs with his girlfriend Rachel Weisbart in an indie pop group called The Gender Gnomes — about matching artists with homeowners and charities they love. They were in the process of putting House Concerts for a Cause together when COVID hit, but with restrictions lifting, the timing may be even more appropriate now.

Oberstaedt said people are eager to have fun and experience live music again. Musicians are eager to work. Charities have seen fewer people giving. So the matching service benefits all those involved. Oberstaedt does not take any money from the musicians or charities and is simply arranging these house concerts out of a desire to support musicians and worthy causes.

“There’s a real need for this on all sides,” Oberstaedt  explained. “People want to be able to have fun again. Having live music in your house is just tremendous fun, and it’s memorable…. [and] musicians have been out of work” 

Those interested in hosting a live concert can contact House Concerts for a Cause through its website or via social media. From there, the host chooses a  charity to support and Oberstaedt facilitates the match with performers. Artists run the gamut from opera singers to jazz performers, cover bands to praise bands. The artists set their performance fees, and while not required, the group requests a match in that amount or more for the chosen charity. Weisbart said what she appreciates about the concept is that nearly every musician she knows  is willing to perform for a charitable cause, even if it means overextending themselves or taking a financial hit in the process. She said coming out of the pandemic, musicians are already hurting, and this is something that allows them to make a little money while supporting good causes. 

Pat said the pandemic took away their ability to perform live, which is something they really miss. So to be able to come back and do it while raising money for charities makes the return even better.

I think it gives our  art a much deeper meaning when it’s connected to a cause we care about,” Pat said.

To learn more about House Concerts for a Cause, visit www.benefithouseconcerts.com.