“That show changed my life. All the people in the cast are all my friends now,” he said.
Simon is in his second year performing with the Cleveland Cavaliers Qstix. The percussion ensemble plays during quarter breaks.
“The championship year was my first year,” he said. “The championship experience was amazing. We got to play at the NBA All-Star weekend in Toronto.”
For 10 years, Simon performed in the off-Broadway show “Stomp.”
Simon and the Chemical Wonders will perform at the Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. Saturday for the annual Celebration of the Arts. The gala kicks off with light appetizers and desserts starting at 6:30.
Before the concert, Norwalk High School students will provide background music. Attendees can admire the best of the best — artwork by students in kindergarten through 12th grade and watch artists creating new work in the Ernsthausen gallery. NHS drama students will perform scenes from “Seussical the Musical.”
Jeffrey Boyd, of Mansfield, is playing trumpet with the Chemical Wonders.
“We’re going to hit every genre,” Simon said. “It’s going to be a full, blown-out, one-and-a-half hour show.”
The music in the concert will cover classic rock, reggae, Motown, Latin and even tap dancing.
“The audience is going to feel like they’re listening to the radio and a Broadway show,” Simon said.
Although he’s “always been into sports,” he said as a youth, going back stage with his mother, who promoted Gospel shows, to meet musicians and getting an inside peek at the music business was another powerful influence in his musical journey.
Saturday’s show isn’t the first time Simon has come to Huron County.
In late May, he shared a lesson of tolerance and team work during an anti-bullying message at Western Reserve Local Schools. While in high school, Simon’s best friend was bullied, which led to him committing suicide. Soon after that, Simon dedicated himself to to erasing bullying from schools.
“Western Reserve schools was awesome. That was amazing. A lot of tears were shed,” he said.
Simon credits his friend Deb Henry, a music teacher for Western Elementary School, with bringing him to Collins.
“That’s what sparked this whole thing,” Simon said, referring to Saturday’s concert. “I want to thank (gala co-chairwoman) Jennifer Evans for being my contact.”
Simon shared a humorous anecdote when he went to Firelands Credit Union in Norwalk shortly after his Western presentation.
“Everyone stopped and looked at me. They were like, ‘What is this big, black guy doing here?’” he recalled.
But Simon had a person who eased a possibly awkward situation.
“The vice president, Jennie L. Hipp, was the nicest lady I met. I want to thank her for being so nice to me at the bank,” he said.
Tickets for A Celebration of the Arts is $60 and $30 for adults and $15 for students.
By going to acelebrationofthearts.ticketleap.com/coa, you can order a ticket, print it and take it with you to the gala. You can also purchase tickets by calling Mollie Wetherill at 419-660-6511.
The gala is the annual fundraiser for the Endowment Find for Norwalk City Schools. The fund awards about $50,000 in scholarships to NHS graduating seniors each year, distributes grants to educators and helps support the Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center.