By Megan Brumer – NFTY-NW, Kutz Camp, and Kalsman Alumni and current Camp Kalsman songleader.
Ever since I was born, I have been listening to Jewish music. My mom used to only have Jewish CDs in the car so whenever we drove anywhere we were listening to Jewish music. Because of the early exposure to Jewish music, the role models of the song leaders at NFTY and at camp, and the excitement I found while playing in front of people, I became a song leader. Throughout my song leading career, there have been three factors that have affected it the most, other song leaders, NFTY, and Camp.
My passion for song leading started because I loved watching Chava Mirel song lead at Friday night services at my synagogue when I was in elementary school. After watching her, I knew that I wanted to be a song leader too because I wanted to bring the joy of music to others like she did for me. Since then, I have looked up to all the people in my life who are song leaders. I always watch them and learn from them and even as an adult and a proficient song leader, I know that if I have a question, I can always go to them for help.
NFTY has given me the ability to excel in my song leading. I started in 9th grade as a shy girl who loved Jewish music and wanted to be a song leader. Throughout 9th and 10th grade I started to learn more of the songs and really open up and become more confident in my song leading ability. I felt like I was at home and I knew that I was going to be accepted no matter my skill level and that level of community and family helped me grow.
In the summer of 2010 I went to the Kutz Camp in the song leading intensive and that is when I think I became a full-fledged song leader. At Kutz, I built up confidence in my guitar playing and my song leading skills, and I had the chance to learn from some of the best people in the song leading world and in the Jewish world. I was also able to meet song leaders just like me from around the world who were in my track. I was able to lead song sessions and services and see what it felt like to be a true song leader. Because of Kutz, I was confident enough to apply to be my regional song leader and take a higher position in the song leading world.
In 11th grade, I was appointed as the NFTY-NW regional song leader and I really started to be more confident and I started to understand the concept of writing a song session and leading a group of song leaders. That year was NFTY Convention and I was accepted to be on the music team. One of the most memorable moments I have ever had song leading was during Friday night services at Convention when the music team went up to help lead Shiru L’adonai. While on stage I looked out into the crowd and there were 900 of my closest friends all singing in harmony with us and I felt at home. That moment strengthened my confidence and I knew that I could be a real song leader. I was re-appointed to the regional song leader position senior year and because it was my last year, I made it my mission to help up-and-coming song leaders who were like me when I was younger by being there for them like past song leaders were for me and helping them develop song leading skills. Overall, NFTY gave me the opportunity to become a song leader and to put my two passions together, NFTY and music.
Camp Kalsman has given me a place and a home where I can use my passion for Jewish music and my song leading skills to affect others. During the summer of 2011, my CIT summer, I was able to help lead Shabbat Shira every Friday night. I loved watching everyone’s face while they were singing their hearts out and having an amazing time. It made me feel special because I just impacted someone’s life and I helped start their passion for Judaism and Jewish music. This past summer, my first year as staff, I was hired as a music specialist. Just like the year before, I had the ability to impact someone’s passion for Judaism, except instead of just once I week, I could do it every day. My favorite part was giving campers who wanted to song lead the chance to have the experience of leading a song session and seeing what they can achieve.
Because of Camp Kalsman, this past June I was able to attend Hava Nashira, a weekend focused on song leading and becoming a better song leader. Everyone who was there had the same passion for Jewish music that I did and everyone had something to teach someone. Throughout my 5 days there I learned so much from so many different people through the URJ/Ramah song leading intensive and many other programs. Hava Nashira showed me that I can be a good song leader and keep up with everyone else, but still have room to grow and improve to become an even better song leader then I was before.
Through all these experiences, I feel like I have all of the resources to be the best song leader I can be. For me, song leading is a way that I am able to help others have a connection to Judaism through music just like I do. I want to help them feel connected to the songs and prayers we do every day at camp and at services. I will continue to song lead and teach the community about Jewish music and hopefully they can connect to Judaism through music too.