The 2016 Magic Penny Award Ceremony maintained its fine tradition of honoring an inspirational contributor to the field of children’s music. This year’s recipient, José-Luis Orozco, has indeed enriched the world, creating bilingual children’s music, books, and videos for more than forty years. Our appreciative CMN audience sang along with many of his songs during the presentation.
Joanie Calem and Jenny Heitler-Klevins, members of the Magic Penny Committee, related the history of the award beautifully, and fittingly transitioned into a celebration of José-Luis. CMNers Nancy Schimmel and Bonnie Lockhart opened by leading us all in the Magic Penny song written by Nancy’s mother, Malvina Reynolds. The song encompasses the heart of both the award and the recipient with the lyrical affirmation, “Love is something if you give it away / you end up having more.”
José-Luis’s presence was joyful, humble, and grateful, and the room was filled with his generous spirit. He embodied the love he has for music, children, and sharing the Spanish language and Latin American culture through song. Family and friends were there to help honor him and celebrate his lifetime accomplishments with sincere appreciation.
During the ceremony, many CMNers shared how the songs of José-Luis Orozco have inspired them and impacted their work. This was evidenced in the rousing performances in English and Spanish. Led from the stage by CMNers, the whole audience sang and moved as one, even those of us who were new to this wonderful work. The songs were often very playful, like “Un Elefante” and “El Burrito Enfermo.” Yet perhaps the most powerful song was “Paz Y Libertad,” which we sang together, standing in a kind of choral ovation for Orozco, who was moved enough to come to the stage and share his thoughts and songs. He spoke of his musical childhood: learning songs from his grandmother and traveling the world singing with the Mexico City Boy’s Choir. He affirmed the great importance of not only his own work with and for children, but all of ours. He championed the culture we all share: to sing, pass on language, culture, and values.
José-Luis exuberantly exclaimed, “This is a great day!” both from the stage and in a one-on-one conversation with me. I believe that being so warmly received by the CMN community truly touched his soul.
In the end, we all rose again to reprise “Paz Y Libertad” with José-Luis leading us in that great song that speaks directly to the main tenet of CMN. Jenny Heitler-Klevins added sign language as our voices proclaimed, “Para los niños de todo el mundo queremos paz y libertad.” “For all the children of the world, we want peace and freedom.”
Thank you, José-Luis Orozco, for a lifetime of giving your love away to the children of the world—and to us! May you end up having more.