By Ashley Schlaeger, URJ GUCI Song Leader and Counselor
If there’s one thing GUCI knows how to do, it’s harmonize.
For me, personally, one of my favorite days on camp is Shabbat. Shabbat at camp is an incredibly special time.
Each week at camp, we are separated by units: Garin, Shoresh, Gezah, Anaf, and Avodah doing our own unique programs. Each week, we are separated by cabins doing our own special chavevuryot, or cabin bonding.
On Shabbat, we come together as one: one unit, one people, one VOICE.
Despite all our separate units, singing is a key component of what brings us together. It’s the time where an Avodahnik jumps with a K’ton camper, and an entire cabin holds pinkies during the slow section of song session. It’s the time where serenity fills the air, and if you close your eyes, the outcome is indescribable.
GUCI would be entirely different without singing. There would be no song session after every meal, no roll call call to kick off our days, no services to allow us to pray, and no Shabbat to allow us to celebrate all we accomplished within the last week.
As a small Garin camper, I looked up to the people who would make memories through music. I would sit in services watching the song leaders fingers in attempts of learning a new prayer. I jumped every morning at Roll Call during Anaf in hopes of spreading my energy to the younger kids that looked up to me. I would even grab a tambourine at song session so I would feel included and like I was part of making the beautiful music that night.
When the time came to wonder what I would do the summer before college, the answer was easy. I knew that I had a place at GUCI, and most importantly that GUCI had a place for me. Being a song leader and a counselor is one of the best things to ever happen to me. I have the opportunity to make music for others, but also serve as a positive role model for my campers.
GUCI is what inspired me to pursue song leading with absolutely no knowledge of guitar. It was the counselors I looked up to who taught me how to play guitar as an impatient 3rd grader, and allowed me to express myself by amplifying ruach, and being able to dance and sing like no one was watching me.
Being a song leader is about taking the musical moments that were special to me, and making them special for other people, and that’s what makes our camp unique.