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‘Boot camp’ to offer basic training to song leaders
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‘Boot camp’ to offer basic training to song leaders

Jewish rockers will lead workshops on inspiring with music

Jewish rock musicians Rick Recht, center, and Sheldon Low, left, lead a “boot camp” for songleaders in St. Louis in May, like the one they will be doing in October in Scotch Plains and Summit.
Jewish rock musicians Rick Recht, center, and Sheldon Low, left, lead a “boot camp” for songleaders in St. Louis in May, like the one they will be doing in October in Scotch Plains and Summit.

Rick Recht, the Jewish musician who has rocked the rafters of the gym at concerts at the JCC of Central New Jersey, will be back in the area in October to show religious leaders, educators, and group counselors how to inspire others with song.

He and fellow Jewish rocker Sheldon Low and some associates will conduct a two-day regional workshop they call Songleaders Boot Camp. The first day, Saturday, Oct. 16, will be at the JCC in Scotch Plains; the second, Sunday, Oct. 17, will be at Congregation Beth Hatikvah in Summit.

They will be working with adults and teens ages 15 and up who want to use music to build Jewish identity — people like rabbis, cantors, congregational music directors, religious school and day school teachers, and camp and youth group leaders. In the course of the 16 or so hours of instruction, they will explore the physiology, psychology, strategies, and stagecraft of effective and inspiring musical leadership.

The concept was launched in May with the SLBC National Conference in St. Louis, where both Recht and Low grew up and where Recht still lives, with songleaders and would-be songleaders from across the United States and Israel. They followed up with similar training just for teenagers.

After the May event in St. Louis, Cantor Hollis Schachner of Wayland, Mass., told a reporter from the local paper, The Jewish Light, that she had learned song leading was “a worldview, not just an activity.” She went on to say, “I had thought it was about picking up a guitar and learning some songs, but it’s really about establishing relationships and teaching Torah through music holistically.”

The NJ event is being organized by Mike Goldstein, program director of the JCC and codirector of its Camp Yachad. He said, “Rick’s given three concerts here in the past five years, and he is powerful, dynamic, and talented. He brings to Judaism a format that is contemporary, rhythmic, and cool, with rock and roll that absolutely appeals to our campers.”

Goldstein is a musician himself and the band he leads, the Shabbatones, has become a favorite feature of Friday Shabbat celebrations at Camp Yachad. He said Recht’s music has become a big part of the band’s repertoire.

“Music has been a strong part of Jewish tradition over the millennia,” he said. “It’s a really great vehicle for teaching about Judaism, and building a sense of connection. I’m hoping that synagogues and schools will send their staff members to the boot camp, to build their skills.”

The organizers say they also see the events as a way for people in the field to establish a fellowship with one another. In an e-mail about the event, Goldstein wrote that participants “will have the opportunity to connect with each other throughout the year for further collaboration and learning, while providing much higher caliber song leading and Jewish teaching through music in their respective communities.”

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