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Reports | Spring 2015
Ruth displays her award. Its creator, Francie Ginocchio of Rochester, Minnesota, named it "Peace Under One Sky." A penny is sewn into the back. (photo by Jenny Heitler-Klevans)
Allison DeSalvo, Beth Bierko, and Julie Thompson perform as part of the Magic Penny tribute. (photo by Kayte Deioma)
Ruth responds to the tribute honoring her. (photo by Kayte Deioma)

Magic Penny Award Ceremony 2014

Laughter, Tears, and Rainbow Streamers

Combining our open-throated singing of beloved songs and the communal telling of a biography full of the courage, humor, and compassion we cherish, the Magic Penny ceremony is always a highlight of CMN’s annual conference. This year’s award event for Ruth Pelham continued the tradition with much laughter, some tears, song, dance, and rainbow streamers.

In videoed testimonials from a variety of folks from Albany, New York, where Ruth’s Music Mobile is a thirty-seven-year-old tradition, we learned of the powerful impact Ruth and her music have had upon children, families, and communities. We learned about how Ruth’s work, deeply rooted in the neighborhoods of her own city, has traveled outward to Native American communities in the Grand Canyon, to Sri Lanka, and to Uganda.

And of course, we sang Ruth’s songs. From the anthemic “Under One Sky” to the joyous “Turning of the World,” Ruth’s gift for crafting the instant sing-along was evident. Sarah Pirtle and Beth Bierko displayed delightful comedic talents in a hilarious rendition of “The Activity Room.” Two of a Kind moved us with the powerful “I Take this Vow.” Tom Pease and Stuart Stotts led us in a musical practice of compassion with “What do I Do?” (The music is in this issue).

Ruth took the stage at the end of the ceremony, and shared the bittersweetness of the moment. Her pleasure in our celebration came along with the enormous grief of losing her sister to cancer just weeks before our conference. She brought the poignancy of her family’s love to the room, surprising us all with a sidesplitting performance of several of the British music hall songs—complete with accent—that had been family favorites when she was a child.

When CMN first created the Magic Penny Award, our goals were twofold. We wanted to show our love and share a joyful tribute to someone in the community of children’s musicians whose work embodies the very best of what we all strive to do. In honoring Ruth Pelham this year, share the love we did! But we also wanted the award to be a vehicle to bring the music and work of the awardee to larger public attention. We hope that you’ll be inspired to learn, sing, and share Ruth Pelham’s songs. You can find them on her website: http://www.musicmobile.org. You’ll also find lots of Ruth’s songs on our CMN website in the Resources Library pages. Give them away; you’ll end up having more!