Hey Camp George!
This past weekend we were fortunate to be joined by Jewish musician – Alan Goodis, who spent Shabbat up here at camp. Alan did everything from work with our Nitzotzot and Barak campers in the Shabbat choir, to playing along with our song leaders in Super Spesh Song Sesh, to teaching our community new songs at the campfire!
In between all of this, Alan and I had a chance to sit down and talk about his experience as a song leader and as a musician in the Jewish community! To see Alan in action at camp, check out this video of our first Shabbat experience!
– Can’t wait for the next song session!
How did you get involved in song leading?
I grew up in Toronto at Temple Har Zion, where my mom worked as a Jewish educator. I also spent several summers as a day camper at Gucci, where my mom also worked. I loved being surrounded by music at camp, and so at age six I got my first guitar.
I then grew up as a camper at G.U.C.I, where I eventually began song leading, and when I graduated from college I moved to Chicago, where I got a very part time job at a Temple, working in their Sunday school teaching music, and working at some events at the Temple. In order to find song leading and teaching jobs l also spent a lot of time picking up the phone and calling Temples, and reaching out to Jewish educators etc who I met at G.U.C.I and who wanted to help support me. Eventually I started to visit camps which helped open up travel opportunities.
Where else are you travelling this summer? And what kind of work do you do during the rest of the year?
I will be spending some of my summer visiting and spending time at other URJ camps, where I will work with their song leading teams and campers to sing songs and play music just like I did here at Camp George. During the school year, I act as an artist in residency at different schools and Temples, and I also work with children and young adults to do music development and song leader training.
I know you’ve spent a lot of time working with our song leading team; did you know any of them before this?
Yes – I knew Josh Nezon (Assistant Head Song Leader) and Ryan Leszner (Head Song Leader).
I met Josh back in 2006, when Tara Abrams, the Cantorial Soloist at Temple Har Zion (and our Head of Swim, Emily Abrams’s mom) called me and said “we have a kid who really wants to teach music at temple, and we would love for you to come and help him out, can you come work with him?” So I worked with Josh for two days to help prepare him for his role. Then I moved, and it so it wasn’t until a couple years later that I saw him at a song leading conference. Seeing Josh grown up and in a song leading role was very cool.
I also knew Ryan, having met him at the URJ Biennial – in Toronto 2009. Then in 2011 I was the music director for a national NFTY convention and Ryan was one of the song leaders, so I have also been able to see Ryan’s skills as a song leader grow too. Seeing both Josh and Ryan in their roles at camp, and working with their fellow song leaders has been a great experience, it’s always rewarding to see aspiring song leaders and musicians grow into song leaders and musicians in the Jewish community.
Who has inspired you musically?
One of my fellow Jewish musicians – Dan Nichols was a song leader when I was a little day camper at G.U.C.I has inspired me a lot over the years. When I was fourteen or fifteen he has just started his professional career, he pushed me to try song leading – I even taught a guitar chug. Although initially I was resistant, when I tried song leading I loved it.
What’s your favorite part of travelling and working with so many different people?
I love seeing the way that everybody does the exact same thing completely differently. It’s cool to get to see how many different ways there are of singing the same songs. Having the opportunity to meet and sing with so many people is also great.
I really enjoyed coming here to Camp George which I found very welcoming. I really appreciated people’s willingness and openness to learning new music, the strong energy that’s here, and the Shabbat experience.
What advice can you give to any budding song leaders out there?
My advice is to always be learning and to also feel comfortable to share your talents at the level where you are at right now. You’re going to want to be better, but song leading challenges you to have growth in front of groups, and to respect the group you’re singing with. If you are humble and kind to them then you will grow with them.
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