Department: Head Songleader
Years at Tawonga: Eight years
Favorite Camp Food: Burritos
Favorite Camp Song: Angel From Montgomery by John Prine
We are thrilled that our first Staff Spotlight of the summer features Maya Abramson, Tawonga’s Head Songleader. Maya is a longtime Tawongan; her first year was in 2001 as a Taste of Camp G-1 camper. Music has always been a driving force in her life, and much of that was nurtured by music at Tawonga.
“I had just started learning violin that year… Music was the thing that made me the most excited at the time, and still. I remember wondering why we didn’t have it three times a day,” Maya said.
When she came back on staff in 2012 as a nanny, she began to get experience song leading in her spare time. Though she had played and studied music her whole life, she had not had much exposure song leading for large groups of people until camp.
“Getting hundreds of people to sing along during song session is an amazing feeling,” Maya said.
For the next two summers, Maya came back to camp as a song leader. She believes music is an integral part of Tawonga’s mission because it makes children feel safe and free to express themselves. The music is something we believe campers can take home and cherish until they come back the next summer.
“Anything that can remind them of that feeling is really special and I think music can do that. They can remember 300 people singing the same song or they can remember sitting with their bunk at Stone Couch, star gazing, and singing songs with their cabin. These small simple moments actually have a big effect on campers,” Maya said.
For the last two years, Tawonga has sent Maya to the Hava Nashira annual songleading workshop at the Olin Sang Rubin Union Institute in Wisconsin. Created by Debbie Friedman and Cantor Jeff Clepper, Hava Nashira is one of the only Jewish songleader conferences allowing songleaders and cantors from all over the country to learn together and share music.
“I want to make kids feel like a part of something bigger while also introducing new songs and new ideas allowing kids to interact,” Maya said.
And in her time as Song Leader over the last few years, she has done just that. Last year, she introduced several new camp favorites such as Song for the Divine Mother of the Universe and Heartbeat. This year, she introduced the song May the Life I Lead.
“May the life I lead, speak for me. May the life I lead, speak for me. When I come to the end of the road, and I lay down my heavy load, may the life I lead, speak for me.”
Tonight, Maya, along with former songleader, Cantor Marsha Attie, and two first-year songleaders, led Taste of Camp in an all camp Hashkivenu. Below, enjoy photos from this evening. Laila tov!
Staff Spotlight is a weekly series on The Pipeline blog featuring staff members from a broad range of departments here at Camp Tawonga. Tune in every week to learn more.