This weekend is Song leader Boot Camp East. It is, according to their website, “an intensive leadership training program for Rabbis, Cantors, professional songleaders, and new songleaders offering a profound exploration of the physiology, psychology, strategy, and execution behind explosive Jewish teaching and songleading.”
My Saturday began with a double B’nei Mitzvah. Two wonderful, dynamic boys were called to the Torah in a lovely service. Immediately afterwards, I got in my car and sped (and luckily didn’t get a ticket) to Scotch Plains, NJ, to arrive late at the JCC for boot camp. The day was intense, to say the very least. Very early on, Rich Recht and Sheldon Low had 40 strangers jumping dancing, and clapping their hands in the air. Chests were lifted, breathing and heart rates increased, we were pumped and we hadn’t done anything yet. And that was just the point. We didn’t even get out our guitars until after dinner. Almost the entire day was spent on the psychology and physiology of performance. Much like voice lessons, I discovered that there is a great deal of technique to this and that it is exceedingly difficult to keep all of these things in your head. It’s like walking, chewing gum, rubbing your belly, and singing in Hebrew all at once! But, like voice training, I am certain that a lot of it becomes second nature with practice. At least I hope so.
This morning at Sunday school, I tried to put SOME of what I had learned into action. We begin our Sunday school with a brief service. I tried to use praise phrases, encouraging the kids to sing more and louder and then praising them when they did. The energy in the first session (grades K-3) was fantastic! The kids were singing. They were energized. It was great. There was only one problem. If you are singing the Mi Chamocha prayer, and right in the middle of the text you say, “Raise it up! Awesome!” You have stopped talking to G-d and are now talking to the kids. In that case, have you, as songleader, removed yourself from the process of prayer and become only a songleader, concerned with the volume and enthusiasm of those being lead, but not so much with the prayer itself? How can you be both the songleader, inspiring and leading others to sing, and the cantor – really praying and inspiring others to prayer through your example? I want people to sing with me, but I didn’t like interrupting the prayer to comment on it.
Maybe the answer is that in speaking to the kids, you are calling to the Divine Spark within those kids to be raised up? Maybe that’s part of the prayer. It seems to me, though, that that is its own prayer, not the Mi Chamocha. That is the prayer of a song session, but not the prayer of a regular worship service. It will be interesting to explore these questions further during Song Leader Boot Camp Day 2 later today. I’ll also be curious to see how these techniques play out with our second session of Hebrew school students (4th-6th grade).
I’ll let you know how it goes…
Until then, Raise it up!!