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Reports | Fall 2014

An Exciting Blend of Old and New

The CMN 2014 Annual Conference

Join us at the Twenty-Seventh Annual International Conference of the Children’s Music Network, September 19–21, 2014, at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia. The CMN Annual Conference is an amazing experience. We share songs, ideas, and resources, plus teaching tools, songwriting techniques, community-building skills, and marketing tips. In spontaneous song swaps and networking, as well as in structured workshops and presentations, we expand our knowledge and reignite our spirits.

This year’s conference is shaping up to be an exciting blend of old and new. Honoring our elders who have passed on this year, there will be a sing-along tribute to Pete Seeger and Faith Petric, as well as a workshop to continue singing the great old songs. The keynote this year will be a panel entitled “Roots and Branches: Growing into the Future of Children’s Music.” Our featured panelists will discuss the changing landscape of children’s music while recognizing our culture and heritage. Panelists include Tyler Bickford, PhD, ethnomusicologist and assistant professor of childhood studies at the University of Pittsburgh; Jessica “Culture Queen” Smith, owner of Culture Kingdom Kids; and Mindy Thomas of SiriusXM Radio’s Kids Place Live.

There will be many exciting workshops offered at this year’s conference, and you will be able to get credit for professional development while learning, singing, and having fun. There are four workshop slots, with five workshops in each slot, so there will be plenty to choose from. We have workshops on early childhood from experienced presenters, as well as the always popular “Early Childhood Song Swap.” We also have tracks on songwriting and creativity to get your creative juices flowing, expanding, and improving your musical work with children—techniques to improve your musical skills and teaching practice, from classroom and music teachers to performing musicians to music therapists and beyond. For performers (or anybody who gets up in front of an audience) we have a track of workshops on building and enhancing your career as a performer/recording artist. Finally, we have our beloved song swaps, in which each person gets a chance to share songs on a topic such as funny songs, environmental songs, and singing games.

The Magic Penny Award, named after the song by Malvina Reynolds, is the Children’s Music Network’s lifetime achievement award, honoring someone in our community who has dedicated their life to empowering children through music. This year’s Magic Penny Award recipient is Ruth Pelham, a singer, songwriter, educator, and activist who brings her unique vision of world peace and social change to children and adults around the globe. Ruth’s music touches the heart and reflects the full integrity of the human spirit through her powerful anthems like “Turning of the World” and “Under One Sky.” As a founding member of the Children's Music Network and a board member for many years, Ruth has given her talents generously to building our organ­ization. We look forward to celebrating her achievements at this year’s Magic Penny Award presentation.

It wouldn’t be a CMN conference without the round-robin, an open mic where each person who wants to can perform a song, poem, chant, or dance. We have time set aside both Friday and Saturday nights for the round-robin. This event showcases the incredible talent within CMN, and allows us to sing along in glorious harmony. After the round-robin each night, there will be jamming, singing, dancing—most likely into the wee hours.

For those who have never experienced CMN’s international conference, there will be newcomer’s circles Friday evening and Saturday morning. Newcomers to CMN can also be paired with more experienced “buddies.” These features will help first-time attendees get to know people and feel welcomed into the circle.

This year we have a few special extras. Beth Bierko, longtime CMN member and certified Kripalu yoga teacher, will be leading a couple of all-levels yoga classes, so you can begin your morning refreshed and ready for new experiences. She will also be leading an afternoon “Let Your Yoga Dance” session, a combination of dance, gentle yoga, breath work, and moving meditation, all done to wonderful world music and songs from CMN. Queen, who thrilled us with her drumming a few years ago at the Zion conference, will be offering a drum-making workshop. We’re also trying a new mentor idea, which will allow participants with knowledge and experience in any area (songwriting, recording, performing, teaching, residencies, marketing, PR, booking, teacher workshops, etc.) to share their expertise with others individually.

You can stock up on great music by fellow participants (or sell your own music) in the sales area, get great stuff and support CMN at the same time at the silent auction and the glad rags rack, and share your songs via the paper song swap.

We are holding this year’s conference in an exciting new location. Situated on 110 acres just outside Washington, D.C., the National Conference Center is designed especially for retreats and conferences. Each person will have their own private room with a comfy bed and bath. The food includes locally grown produce and sustainably-caught seafood. There are many options from hot dishes, soups, sandwich fixings, and salad bar to scrumptious desserts and fresh fruit. Coffee will be available throughout the day. The price for the conference is all-inclusive (conference fee, room and board).

We hope you can join us this year in Virginia for this unforgettable jam-packed weekend of music, fun, friendship, growth, and community!