Magic Penny Award

Aaron Nigel Smith

Aaron Nigel Smith is a Grammy® Nominated producer and Billboard #1 recording artist who has been a serious musician since age 11, when he began performing in venues like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, and Westminster Abbey with The American Boychoir. He graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy and attended Manhattan School of Music, University of Southern California and Marygrove College with a focus on voice performance and music education. He has since performed professionally throughout the United States, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Aaron is an educator with 20 years of experience creating music curricula. In 2002, he founded FUNdamentals of Music & Movement, a fun approach to music education for preschool children. He scaled FUNdamentals to a national program and sold to RockStarts in 2012. Young Audiences, The Right Brain Initiative and Arts for Learning added Smith to their teaching artist roster in 2011, and in 2013 he was named the Sunburst Teaching Artist of the Year.

Smith is also an award winning recording artist with 11 albums in his catalog. His 2021 release, All One Tribe was nominated for a Grammy. His 2018 release, In Our America made its debut at #1 on the Billboard reggae charts. In 2015 Aaron produced an album in collaboration with Ziggy Marley & Tuff Gong Worldwide which features 135 youth from the USA, South America & Jamaica singing and playing songs in celebration of Bob Marley’s 70th birthday. His 2010 CD, Everyone Loves to Dance, received a Parents’ Choice Award and recognition in People Magazine. In 2009, he collaborated on the first Bob Marley kids record, B is for Bob. Aaron joined the cast of the Emmy Award Winning PBS Kids show, Between the Lions in 2008 working as a composer and special musical guest. In 2005, Aaron’s debut CD release, Let’s Pretend, won the NAPPA & IParenting Media Awards.

Aaron and his wife Diedre, formed the non-profit 1 World Chorus with the mission of promoting peace and empowering youth internationally through the arts. More than 10,000 youth in Portland, Los Angeles, New York, Kenya & Jamaica have participated in 1 World chorus programs. 1 World Chorus released their debut album, Welcome to the Village, to critical acclaim. People Magazine and USA Today recognized the project as one of the best children’s releases of the year, and the CD received a Parents’ Choice Award. 1 World Chorus youth have performed at The Grammy Museum, Symphony Space, Oregon Zoo Concerts, and Legoland.

In the summer of 2013, Aaron launched the Rox in Sox Children’s Music & Book Festival. This one day free charity event features some of the nation's leading talent from the worlds of family music and literature. The festival has been produced in Portland, Las Vegas and Jamaica, and we have distributed thousands of socks, shoes and books to youth in the USA, Kenya and Jamaica.

Since 2014, Aaron has partnered with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, The Bob Marley Foundation and Partners for Youth Empowerment to create the One Love Youth Camp in Jamaica. During this week-long residential camp, students explore creativity as a tool for empowerment.

Aaron Nigel Smith proudly endorses Martin Guitars and works with them to bring music programs and instruments to under-resourced youth. Aaron was awarded the Vocational Leadership Award by Rotary International in 2016. In 2017 he received a Service Above Self Award from the community of Lake Oswego, Oregon. Aaron was recently invited to serve as a Black Music Collective Ambassador (BMC). BMC is a division of The Recording Academy committed to amplifying artists of color in the music industry. He is a founding member of Family Music Forward and 1 Tribe Collective, both organizations that uplift and amplify BIPOC voices in the family music space. Aaron’s simple mission is to promote peace by connecting and empowering youth, families and communities through music and the arts.

About the Award

The Magic Penny Award, named after the song by Malvina Reynolds, is a Children's Music Network tribute to people in our community who have dedicated their lives to empowering children through music. In October 1999 the first award was given posthumously to Malvina herself, through her daughter, Nancy Schimmel.

Each year the Magic Penny Award program is a highlight of the CMN International Conference. The tribute program features songs written by or used by the recipient, informative appreciations of the recipient's work, and of course the presentation of the award itself.


Past Recipients


  • Daniel J. Henry Jr. & Jean N. Hendricks

  • Fred Rogers

  • Nancy Schimmel

  • Kim & Reggie Harris

  • Sally Rogers

  • Jose-Luis Orozco

  • Pete Seeger

  • Ruth Pelham

  • Tom Hunter

  • Sharon, Lois & Bram

  • Joanne Hammil

  • Ruthie Buell

  • Tom Chapin

  • Bill Harley

  • Sarah Pirtle

  • Nona Beamer

  • Ruth Crawford Seeger

  • Bob Blue

  • Suni Paz

  • Woody Guthrie

  • Ella Jenkins

  • Marcia Berman

  • Malvina Reynolds
Photo Credits: Maile Beamer Loo/Hula Preservation Society (Nona Beamer), Ann Morse (Bob Blue),
Robin Carson (Woody Guthrie), Janice Buckner (Marcia Berman), Eleanor M. Lawrence (Malvina Reynolds), Ramiro Fauve (Suni Paz)

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