It just so happens that I was in charge of putting on a very special concert at my synagogue on Sunday. It was a dream come true: a solo acoustic concert with Dan Nichols. And because of a connection (see below) and seeing as I'm a (some time) songleader in that community, Dan asked me to join him in a song. That's the photo above. Below, is the introduction I read at the beginning of the concert. He seemed to like it...what do you think?
We all connect with our Judaism in different ways. For some it’s through the rituals, for some the food, or the prayers, or the holidays. For many, myself included, it’s the music. Jewish music has always affected me in profound ways, making me smile, bringing me to tears, helping me to pray, and get in touch with the liturgy of our Shabbat and High Holy Day services. More than anything else, it’s helped me to feel the presence of God in my life. Having taught Jewish music since I first picked up my guitar over 30 years ago, and having led the music at our women’s retreats and camping trips, and being a member of the choir, I can tell you that for me Jewish music is my hook. If I’m feeling disconnected from my spiritual self, all I have to do is listen to some Jewish music or sing some myself to start to feel that fire light up again.
A few years back I had the enormous pleasure of attending Hava Nashira, the Jewish songleaders’ conference in
. At the conference I met Dan
Nichols, amongst other amazing Jewish musicians. I’d heard Dan’s music before,
as one of many contemporary Jewish musicians taking our liturgy and
transforming it into something fresh and beautiful. Dan was one of my teachers
there. Whether we were praying together or singing rousing camp songs after a
meal, Dan was the one whose presence and music transported me to another
And it was Dan’s music I came home listening to. (Literally, I sat there on Midwest Airlines with Dan Nichols streaming out of my ipod!)
It’s Dan’s music I’ve gone back to and back to over the years. I’ve taught his songs to our children here at STaRS, I’ve belted them out in the car while I drove my own kids around. I’ve even hummed them as I’ve fed my donkeys out in the pasture at home. Dan’s music stays with me and moves me and fills me up. He is, most definitely, one of my spiritual teachers as well as one of my musical teachers.
For that reason, I’ve wanted you to be able to experience some time with Dan. Not just listening to the music he’s created, but being with him while he shares it with you. We are so fortunate to have him here with us today.
He comes to us from
where he lives with his wife and little
girl. He spends much of his life bopping around the country from congregation to
congregation, and camp to camp, sharing his joy of Jewish values and liturgy
with his audiences and students. His career is largely focused on the Jewish
camp scene and, indeed, he is Artist-in-Residence at all 14 URJ summer camps,
Carolina . At Hava Nashira he is the mentor
for all the up’n’coming URJ Camp Newman , of which he
was one a couple decades ago. He is the definition of hamish. He’s humble and sweet and down to earth. He’s an immensely
talented musician. And he’s here, waiting to sing for us…Dan Nichols. camp