The Beat goes on…

Zeda’s Beat Box will perform at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 9 at Cicero’s, 6691 Delmar Boulevard. Tickets are $10 to $13. For more information, call 314-862-0009 or visit



As the founder of Dave Simon’s Rock School, St. Louis music veteran Dave Simon has spent the last six years teaching kids how to turn their rock-and-roll dreams into reality.

But with his band Zeda’s Beat Box, he’s taken an even greater leap of faith.

The group, which features Simon and four of his star pupils from the rock school, released its first full-length CD, Seven, in December. And though it specializes in Jewish-themed songs, Zeda’s Beat Box also plays in secular settings. Their next performance is on Saturday, May 9 at Cicero’s.

“It really took us a while to figure out where the band belonged,” Simon says. “We started playing in synagogues, but we’re a rock band. So we finally said, ‘Look, we’ve gotta go and play in a rock club and see how that goes.'”

On Seven — named for the number signifying divine perfection and completion — Simon sings in both Hebrew and English while the instrumental duties are handled by guitarist Elliot Liebman, keyboardist Chris Lowery, bassist Claire Holohan and drummer Ely Thayer.

“We have an all-star program at the school,” Simon says. “It’s our advanced musicians. I spoke to some of the kids who I knew had the skill level. They had to be at that point where they could exist as a professional band and play like a pro.”

But they didn’t necessarily have to be Jewish.

“I wanted to be sensitive to the population at the school,” Simon says, “and I really wanted it to be an interfaith group. The whole message of the music is that this is Jewish music, but it’s not just for Jewish people. So I wanted some non-Jewish kids to be a part of it, too

The band’s first recording, a four-song EP, was the result of Congregation B’nai Amoona Rabbi Carnie Rose asking Simon to compose some new music for Kabbalat Shabbat.

“I didn’t know what that was,” Simon says with a laugh. “At Amoona, we went to shul on Saturday. And he said, ‘Yeah, that’s how it is, a lot of people, they don’t come here on Friday. It’d be nice to get some new melodies for that.'”

Simon obliged and some of the music he came up with wound up on the EP (titled, appropriately enough, Kabbalat Shabbat) and some of it is on Seven. But the new CD goes on to include more original material that deals with issues both spiritual and political.

“I really use the Clash as the template for this band,” Simon says, noting that he first made the connection between Judaism and rock music in the punk era of the early ’80s. He tries to be sensitive to those who don’t approve of mixing spirituality and politics, but admits it’s hard to separate the two. “I notice, for me, that whenever anything flares up in Israel, I instantly feel more connected to Judaism.”

The music on Seven is a mix of rock, reggae and ska. Simon grew up listening to a lot of reggae, he says, “and to me, lyrically, it sounded like Judaism: what the Rastafarians were saying – it was Old Testament, it’s talking about Israel and Moses. To me, it sounded like Jewish music. So when we put this group together, I instantly gravitated toward reggae and ska.”

Simon’s primary goal for the band, he says, is “presenting the idea of Jewish cool. What is Jewish cool? I grew up thinking being Jewish wasn’t cool and I had to kind of be quiet about it. I want to come out with this group and say, ‘Look, being Jewish is cool, and check it out, we’re going to sing about being Jewish.’ I want this group to be an opportunity for the kids in the band and the audience to experience Judaism in a different way.”