Magic Penny Award

2013: Tom Hunter

The Children’s Music Network is pleased to announce Tom Hunter as the 2013 Magic Penny recipient. This year's award was given posthumously at the CMN International Conference in Los Gatos, CA, October 18-20, 2013.

Each year since 1999 CMN has recognized individuals whose work has celebrated the positive power of music in children's lives and Tom’s life embodied these values. As a musician, educator, mentor, and advocate for children and their teachers, Tom shared his love of song and singing across this country and beyond, whether doing a school assembly, public concert, conference keynote, or educational workshop, or simply sitting on a classroom floor singing with kids. With his big heart, open mind and playful spirit, Tom was a community builder, both afar and at home, and music was always at the center. “Simply put,” he said, “We need to sing more. The benefits are huge.”

For well over 40 years, Tom wrote and sang songs to help us learn, teach, celebrate, grieve, believe, play, and tell the stories of our lives. "I want my music to be grounded in the realities of what kids and teachers know. I want it to ring true; as it helps people laugh, cry, remember, celebrate, and learn."

Tom was a seminar presenter for the Bureau of Education and Research for 15 years, a Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Northwest Teachers Conference established in 1996, and a popular presenter at countless statewide and national events for the National Association for the Education of Young Children

His ears were always open to noticing and carefully listening to the stories of those around him. In Tom's introduction to his book of essays, "Visits to the Heart of Education: Remembering What's Important" he wrote, “If I bring reminders of what's important in education, they come from finding those moments when the heart shows up, moments that peek around the corner and need to be invited farther into the room so we can see them. Such moments might seem ordinary but they are way too important to be captured in test scores. They fill teachers (and sometimes children) to overflowing."

Tom’s songs found their way into children’s lives through camps, churches, schools, and via his many recordings, made with family, friends and colleagues Bev Bos and Michael Leeman. His songs were also recorded and sung by many others; in fact, his song, “Worthy of Our Children” has become an anthem at CMN conferences and gatherings.

“May the work we do make the world we live in
A little more worthy of our children”

We also recognize that his advocacy with teachers is one of his legacies. He encouraged teachers to follow their hearts and realize the importance and value in sharing who they are and simply being “as human as human can be” with their students. This big, playful, warm-hearted man nudged teachers to allow room for children to be big and loud and sing their songs. He inspired everyone to recognize the small, everyday moments filled with joy or insight as he repeatedly advised that, “It matters!”

Indeed, it also matters that he changed the lives of his musical peers, teachers, administrators, parents and children with his songs and stories and the uncanny ability to pass along to them his compassionate love of life and song.

In May of 2008 Tom was diagnosed with a fatal and rare neurodegenerative disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. He passed away on June 20, 2008 in his Bellingham, WA home surrounded by his family. His last few weeks were filled with the same grace and zeal he lived his whole life. His wife, Gwen, and adult children, Aeden and Irene, along with the support of friends, surrounded him with songs, poems, images, and stories he loved as well as with messages of love from the multitudes of people of all ages he had made friends with when passing through their lives. As his speech and sight declined Tom left his family with one more phrase: “Keep it going!”

The governor of the state of Washington, declared October 24, 2008, as Tom Hunter Day: A Day For Singing!

We are delighted to “keep it going!” and honor Tom Hunter with The Children’s Music Network’s 2013 Magic Penny Award.

Tom Hunter (2013)

Photo: 2013 award presentationPhoto: 2013 Magic Penny AwardPhoto: 2013 Magic Penny awardPhoto: 2013 Magic Penny award inscriptionPhotos by Jenny Heitler-Klevans

Tom Hunter's wife and children and their families hold the MP award (presented posthumously).

Award designer: Francie Ginocchio – Rochester, MN