"Lift every voice and sing/'Til earth and heaven ring/Ring with the harmonies of liberty/Let our rejoicing rise/High as the listening skies/Let it resound loud as the rolling sea."—from Lift Every Voice and Sing
For Jewish rock musician Rick Recht, music, heritage and social justice have always gone together. Recht is known for writing songs that celebrate Jewish heritage and culture in contemporary forms. "I'm a teacher," he says in an interview with Christian Music Today. "I happen to play music—that's my medium."
Recently, the guitarist felt a need to take his music beyond the stage. "Over the last couple of years, I started getting an itch for coming up with a way to make these songs turn into action," he says. "I wanted to give kids an action plan—something to do with it rather than just to feel good about it."
The resulting action plan includes a CD, Tear Down the Walls, featuring Recht's contemporary, guitar-driven rock (similar to Steven Curtis Chapman or Dave Matthews), and a touch of gospel, with background vocals by black and Jewish teens. Released in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League, it's part of a four-phase program designed to train teens to fight racism and to lead diversity awareness programs. Recht, who is white, hopes the program and an album-based curriculum can spread to cities beyond his native St. Louis.
"When teenagers get into something, they become role models for everyone who's younger than them, and they become role models for everyone that's older than them," he says. "Have a teenager lead, and everyone's gonna listen."
As part of the recording process, Recht gathered a group of Jewish teens and drove down to Memphis' Stax Academy, a charter school operated by Soulsville, ...1