SPRING HILL — For the past six years, the Baker Brothers have been composing pop-rock music to educate people about Jewish holidays. On Friday, Andrew and Preston Baker will use their music to tell the story of Hanukkah at Temple Beth David.
"It's a new concept, and it should be very interesting," said Rabbi David Levin. "It's going to be very nice."
The service will begin as a traditional Shabbat, incorporating prayers for Hanukkah, with children from the Irwin Lieberman Religious School singing holiday songs.
"We will play along with some of the children's choruses," Andrew Baker said. "There are songs like I Had a Little Dreidel and others that they've prepared. Then we'll do our original Hanukkah pop-rock Jewish material that my brother and I have written."
Andrew, 55, is no amateur musician.
Growing up on Long Island, N.Y., he began playing the clarinet when he was 6, while his younger brother played the guitar.
After learning how to play several instruments, Baker began performing. Over the years he played with numerous legends, including the Drifters, the Platters, Chuck Berry and Jimmy Clanton.
As a music educator, he instructed thousands of students in the New York area and taught the children of celebrities such as Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffett, Christie Brinkley, Mercedes Ruehl, Kurt Vonnegut and Spalding Gray, and the grandchildren of both Julie Andrews and Alan Alda. One of his former students, Dylan Collins, is on tour with Disney's Gazelle National Tour of The Lion King.
Baker was called upon to judge New York state music competitions. He wrote TV and radio jingles for companies like Ford and the New York Mets.
He has set up various music programs, including a recent one at John Leggio's Center for the Performing Arts in Spring Hill.
He became a Platinum Award-winning music producer — for Billy Joel's River of Dreams — and racked up a long, impressive list of production and recording credits.
During all that time, Baker, who is proud to be Jewish, observed the Jewish holidays, but his life revolved around music.
"When you're young, you go to Hebrew school up to age 13 and get bar mitzvahed. Then you make the decision to stay in tune and learn more about the religion and the Torah and all the aspects of Judaism, or you do other things," he said. "Basically, I did music."
That changed when Baker met Rabbi Liebel Baumgarten in East Hampton, N.Y.
"My friend's father had passed away, and she asked me to be part of the minyan (10 men needed to hold a specific type of service)," Baker said. "That's where I met the rabbi, and that's where the inspiration of my rebirth of Judaism came along. From that point on, I started attending services more regularly and getting more involved with the holidays."
And that's when the brothers began composing their songs and producing CDs, including Rockin' Shabbat Around the World and Rock n' Roll Chanukah Time.
Between 2004 and 2006, the Baker Brothers completed a tour of the Holy Lands, performing their music in Eilat, Galilee, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. They performed at the Hanukkah menorah lighting at Rockefeller Center in New York City and in the city's Israeli Independence Day Parade.
In 2007, Andrew Baker and his extended family moved to Spring Hill.
"I started going to Temple Beth David and gave some of the CDs to some of the congregants and to Rabbi Levin," Baker said. "He enjoyed it and suggested that we do this rock and roll Hanukkah Shabbat."
Baker said those who attend the Hanukkah service at the temple will become more informed about the holiday.
"What is different about the Baker Brothers' music is that all of our songs tell about the holiday," Baker said. "Even if you weren't that familiar with the holiday or are not Jewish, you will be singing along by the time you're done because they're very good pop-rock songs."
All the verses will tell stories, he said, so they're educational and fun.
"It will be a joyous time, because it's a happy holiday for not only the children, but the whole congregation."
Levin hopes the service will appeal to young people and seniors alike.
"Everyone is invited," Levin said. "The more the merrier."