The Children’s Music Network announced yesterday that the 2015 Magic Penny Award is being given posthumously to Pete Seeger.
Pete Seeger grew up in a musical family. In the late 1930’s he traveled the country as an itinerant folk singer where he met Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly, and developed a vast repertoire of traditional and new folk songs. In 1955, the House Un-American Activities Committee began investigating Seeger, accusing him of ties to the Communist Party. Seeger discussed his music, and sang songs, but declined to answer questions about his political activities or to “name names”. He and the other members of the Weavers were subsequently blacklisted.
For a time Pete was prohibited from performing in large halls, so he traveled to universities, elementary schools, camps and churches. He sang songs and told stories to a generation of children that grew up to play a large part in the folk revival, and some became children’s musicians. His songs were sung in music classes across the country and because of Pete, many people learned his original songs like “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” traditional songs like “Skip to my Lou” and songs by others such as Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” One of his overarching goals was to get as many people singing as possible, and this he accomplished!
Throughout his life, Pete Seeger loved singing with children, and particularly children’s choirs. In 2010 at the age of 91, Seeger released the Grammy award winning album “Tomorrow’s Children” recorded with a group of students and dedicated to environmental awareness. Pete Seeger was a strong advocate for the Children’s Music Network since its founding in the early 1990’s, and the award will be received by his daughter Tinya Seeger at CMN’s 2015 International Conference in Zion, Il, on Oct 16th 2015. Each year the Magic Penny Award program is a highlight of the CMN International Conference.
The Magic Penny Award, named after the song by Malvina Reynolds, is the Children’s Music Network tribute to people who have dedicated their lives to empowering children through music. In October 1999 the first award was given posthumously to Malvina herself. Previous award recipients include Ruth Pelham, Tom Hunter, Sharon, Lois & Bram, Bill Harley, Tom Chapin, Woody Guthrie, Bob Blue, Suni Paz, Sarah Pirtle, Marcia Berman, Nona Beamer, Ella Jenkins, Joanne Hammil, Ruthie Buell and Ruth Crawford Seeger.