CMN’s Keynote Panel for the 2014 International Conference!

Written by member Jenny Heitler-Klevans.

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. As the world changes at a faster pace each day, the way we listen to and interact with music and technology is in flux. Yet children still respond to music in a primal way, and parents and teachers want quality music with positive messages. The panel will discuss changes in the world of children’s music, as well as how we can continue to bring people together through the power of music & singing and finding ways to connect to our multicultural heritage. The distinguished panelists include:


Mindy Thomas, Program Director of SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live, and host of “The Absolutely Mindy Show” airing weekday mornings from coast to coast. As creator and curator of the first nationwide radio station to focus on independent children and family artists, Mindy has been serving as a tastemaker on the front lines of the family music scene for the last 13 years.




Tyler Bickford, PhD, is an Ethnomusicologist and Assistant Professor of Children’s Literature and Childhood Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He is an expert on children’s music, popular culture, and digital technology. Tyler is currently writing a book about the children’s music industry.


Jessica “Culture Queen” Smith holds degrees in Theatre Education and African-American Studies and is a certified Theatre Arts teacher. As a Master Teaching Artist she founded Culture Kingdom Kids in 2010. Through Culture Kingdom Kids, the beloved “Culture Queen” creates fun and cultural experiences for children. She has produced innovative and highly engaging social studies-themed performances, workshops, and professional development programs for diverse audiences. In 2014, Culture Queen released her first children’s album entitled “Culture Kingdom Kids”.


The moderator, Katherine Dines, has been writing songs and performing for children and families throughout the globe since 1993. An advocate for music, movement, literacy, and early childhood education, she serves on several boards including CMN and Pickleberry Pie. Her series of 11 Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta music CD’s have garnered over 30 national awards, and her songs have received two Grammy nominations and a platinum record.