Wall Street Rocks is hosting a veterans benefit concert this Friday, December 16th. The event will take place at the Highline Ballroom and will include Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and John Popper of Blues Traveler, Matt Sorum of Guns N’ Roses, Carmine Rojas of David Bowie’s Band, and musical director Martin Guigui.
Wall Street Rocks is a collaboration of employees across the financial, technology, and entertainment industry who are focused on supporting heroic Americans who serve our nation. The special evening of music will benefit two organizations, Operation Finally Home and Hope For The Warriors.
We had the opportunity to speak to Leslie Kirby, the founder of Wall Street Rocks.
How Wall Street Rocks was created :
Leslie used to work in the music business and then left and got into Wall Street Technology. She realized that a lot of the friends she did business with over the years are or were musicians who had to give it up to make a living. One evening, Peter Carrara who was running the division for JP Morgan invited her to see him perform at a benefit for another veterans charity. She knew many of the guests in attendance from wall street and when she asked how much they raised, she was surprised that it was only $2000. Following the event, Leslie got an idea.
“That night, I went home and put a business plan together. I got together with Pete afterwards and said, here’s what I want to do. I want to create a charity or a 501c or an organization that has Nonprofit standing that is essentially an entertainment based kind of company and that gives all the money that we raise away from all the events that we do to veterans and first responders charities. Here are all the things that we could potentially do if we do this right as a business. That is how it started. From there we pulled in 5 other key people who are pretty big on Wall Street from 5 different banks. When we incorporated in 2011 we came up with the name Wall Street Rocks and each event is called Wall Street Rocks For Our Heroes.”
These concerts benefit heroes. We asked Leslie who her heroes are. “Generally all the people that work with me and do as much as I do that have dedicated themselves to this, the charities we support, those who have started these charities who work tirelessly to support veterans and first responders in any way possible. Those that are serious about giving and those who have gone out of their way to give, these are all heroes to me.”
The first show was in 2011 and Leslie used her old business connections to pull together a Wall Street Battle of the Bands type of show. They raised $256,000 and gave it all away! “Every year we have bands from Wall Street play and typically the winner of the battle of the bands opens for the end of year talent. We have had everyone from MarK McGrath from Sugar Ray, to Lou Gramm from Foreigner, to our Wall Street All Star Band which is put together by various music producers in LA who believe in what we do and the charities we support. It has worked and we have been able to raise money each year and basically give it all away to a charity we support.”
What is coming next: “Next year we are looking to start our own program which will put us in a different place where we will be catering directly to a group of veterans who need help with a program that we put together with various foundations and organizations that cater to PTSD and TBI, Traumatic Brain Injuries. Everything we do is music related, but the heart of Wall Street Rocks that will never go away are these shows. We are always going to do shows. We are scaling up in size in the kind of shows we do. Our goal is to give it all away. We all work full-time jobs. We do this on the side. It is really a labor of love and it’s because we all care.”
On music bringing people together: “Music absolutely brings people together. Music is really empowering to a lot of people and that is why we are talking about this program for next year with music therapy for PTSD. It really has a major impact on people whether at a concert or one on one, music makes a difference.”
Head to Wall Street Rocks to buy a ticket and for more information on how to donate.