St. Louis DJ Rocks the Web by Ellen Futterman
This article was written by Ellen Futterman, and originally published by St. Louis Jewish Light.
His is not yet a household name, but in the world of Jewish rock music, St. Louisan Seth Williams is making a lot of noise and getting noticed. That’s even more amazing considering much of his work is behind the scenes in radio.
For starters, Williams was emcee and celebrity DJ, appearing before more than 10,000 people at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee gathering in Washington, D.C. last week. He also served in a similar capacity at both the BBYO International Convention in Atlanta in February, where more than 1,000 Jewish teen leaders gathered, and at the Union for Reform Judaism’s 71st Biennial outside of D.C. last December, which boasted more than 6,000 attendees—the largest ever.
Williams, who will be 25 on Tuesday, would be the first to tell you that he owes his notoriety to his “day job” at Jewish Rock Radio (JRR). This 24/7 Internet radio station is the flagship initiative of the non-profit Judaism Alive, which was built in large part by Jewish rock musician and fellow St. Louisan Rick Recht. Its mission is to strengthen Jewish identity and connection for youth through their love of music, musical instruments, and online interaction.
Williams is JRR’s DJ and program director. In that capacity, he oversees the music played on the station as well as provides commentary and interviews, and SCHEDULES programming. He doesn’t actually choose the music—that’s done by an advisory board made up of Jewish teens throughout the country. But once it’s decided that a certain song should be played, Williams determines its frequency in rotation.
Williams also is events and promotions manager at Jewish World Productions, the for-profit company established by Recht that manages, markets and promotes a bevy of Jewish musicians. In that capacity, Williams serves as “point man,” advancing the shows, organizing travel and producing. Williams oversees 150 shows a year just between the ones performed by Recht and Jewish musician Sheldon Low, another native St. Louisan who now lives on the East Coast.
Oh, and did I mention that Williams, who is a classically trained percussionist, also plays drums in a couple of bands around town?
Having so many responsibilities to juggle would make most of us tired, but then we’re not Seth Williams. He seems to thrive on being involved not only in Jewish music but also in the St. Louis Jewish community, largely because he says Judaism “is cool” and offers all kinds of opportunities to young people.
“When people say there is no young adult Jewish community in St. Louis, I ask if they’ve been to a YPD (Young Professionals Division) event. At the Wild Wild YPD kickoff (in January), there were 350 people, a ton of brand new faces,” said Williams, who grew up attending Congregation B’nai Amoona and Jewish summer camps, and graduated from Whitfield High School. His parents, Marcy and Rick Williams, who own Ladue Pharmacy, kept a kosher home and instilled an appreciation of Judaism in their son.
But Williams says it was during college at University of Miami, when he went on a Birthright trip to Israel that he connected with Judaism in ways he never imagined. It’s that connection, he adds, that has made him want to “unite, attract and inspire” Jews his age not only around the world but also in his own backyard.
“There are so many facets in the St. Louis Jewish community for people my age to get involved,” he said. “It isn’t like 10 or 15 years ago when it was about going to services on a Friday night. There are other social outlets for young adults to connect like Next Dor and Moishe House, YPD and the J. Next Dor did a Purim party crawl where 75 young adults boarded a big old school bus and went bar hopping all dressed up. It was a lot of fun.
“What I have found is that if you want it to happen you can make it happen… Anyway I can get involved with the Jewish community, I’m for it. Obviously, I try to incorporate music in that as much as possible.”
Williams’ zest for promoting Judaism through music and more is certainly not lost on Recht. “Seth is a perfect role model for young adult involvement in the Jewish community in St. Louis,” he said. “He’s a hip, cool, intelligent, rockin’ person. Seth is exactly the kind of Jewish young adult we are working so hard to cultivate here in St. Louis. He’s a great guy.”
Recht then went on to add, “What I’ve learned about any Jewish community, not just St. Louis, is that it’s what you make of it. A great Jewish community is built on lay leadership, volunteerism and self-motivation. Seth is a prime example of someone who stepped up. He said, ‘This is how it’s going to be’ and decided to engage in a company —mine—dedicated to strengthening Jewish connection for youth and young adults around the world.
“I hope Seth will be with us for many years to come.”
Meanwhile, you can catch Seth Williams in DJ mode at the opening of the Yom Ha’ Atzmaut celebration at the Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex gym Sunday, May 6.
Rachel Gold is back. St. Louis-based attorney and author Michael Kahn’s latest “A Handful of Gold,” a collection of three short stories all starring Rachel Gold and St. Louis courtroom drama, is now available for download on Amazon (kindle edition).