See that guy up there? That was me in 2013. I had just recently converted to Judaism and had already started writing music about the journey but only really sharing it with my family and my Rabbi, who soon brought up this conference called Songleader Boot Camp. I hadn’t heard of it but at that point, there was a ton of stuff I hadn’t heard about. I remember the first time someone asked if I knew any Debbie Friedman and I said I didn’t know who that was. The look I got said they thought I was out of my mind and a few years later, I completely understand why.
His instructions were very clear, “Go learn everything you can and bring it back”. He said more but that’s the gist of it. I packed an old Blueridge guitar, a notebook of song ideas, and one finished piece called “Hear” that was based on the Sh’ma. I knew the conference was being led by Rick Recht, who I had really connected with musically, and it was for people who wanted to expand their songleading and help drive powerful change in communities. It looked great but I had that fear of being too new, too old, or just not right for it somehow. This was also the first community I was heading to after conversion, which I thought might be a barrier. All my fears were squashed on day one.
Like a lot of folks, I’ve struggled with confidence all my life. Not thinking I was good enough and not feeling like I really belong anywhere. I’m older than I was when this problem started and much wiser now but convincing yourself that you’re not good enough for anything can leave a lot of scars. It’s something you carry around and it’s hard to shake loose. It’s like something that bites you when you try to be more than you’re convinced you are. Thankfully, I married someone amazing who really gave me tremendous amounts of healing and then introduced me to Judaism, which changed everything. Even still, it was easy to feel that pull back into that place of not belonging from time to time.
By the time I got from the airport to the conference, I must have made five new friends and not five minutes after arriving, I was dancing in a huge group and singing at the top of my lungs. All that baggage I brought with me about not fitting in was truly left at the door and I didn’t even notice it happen. I was part of the community and part of something that would change so much about how I viewed my own music, what I could contribute to the Jewish world, and myself. To say that Songleader Boot Camp is an experience doesn’t really do it justice. It’s more like a family.
The most beautiful thing about the first day of SLBC was the immediate validation that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I belonged there with everyone else and I had something to contribute. The days that followed were full of learning, song, and strength. I came back with a fire and it hasn’t gone out since.
Now I’m going back for my 4th year at SLBC as a professional, touring Jewish artist and I couldn’t be more excited. Since that first conference, so much has changed. Is there more to learn? Absolutely. Is there more growth? Every single time. Songleader Boot Camp is a community that I’m extremely proud to be a part of and I want to give back anything I can to it. The friends I made there are friends today and each year is like a reunion. SLBC helped me find my voice, dial in on what I was searching for, and was a perfect example of a tent that is open at all sides. This incredible community helped me realize that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing and I hope that you have, or make, the opportunity to experience it.
This National Conference is led by Rick Recht, his wife Elisa, and an awesome faculty of Jewish artists, educators, and clergy. The entire team has built something that is so much more than can be described. It’s hugely powerful and continues to grow without losing sight of its purpose. It adds more chairs to the table and does so much for the ones who attend. It’s leadership training, community, laughter, song, friendships, and confidence building. You’ll learn real skills to help facilitate growth and change, you’ll build confidence in your own abilities, and you’ll gain supportive friendships that you’ll learn from. SLBC is that place that you might not have known you were looking for.
The SLBC National Conference is coming up in February and I seriously can’t recommend it enough. Check out their website, talk with your Synagogue leadership team, or if you are in a position to send someone, please do! The website link is below:
SLBC National Conferance
February 19th – 21st in St. Louis, MO