So, What’s a Conference Like? with Joanie Calem

As our annual conference fast approaches, we are launching a new series here on the blog.” So, what’s a conference like?” Is a common question from new members and future-members. With such a robust roster of veterans, we decided to send out a few questions to our more seasoned-members and get their take. First up, member since 1998, Joanie Calem.

Joanie Calem
Joanie Calem

 How did you come to join CMN? 

I first heard about CMN in about 1995 when I began studying Dalcroze Movement with Anne Barlin, who had been a friend of Marcia Berman and Patty Zeitlin in California in the 60s.  She had moved to Israel, had met a friend of mine, and we all began studying with her.  When Anne officially retired in 1996 at the age of 80, she “passed on” to me all of her back copies of Pass It On and numerous tapes of CMNers that she had collected through the years.  I read all of the issues of PIO with great interest, and put the tapes aside.  When we moved to the states in 1998, we landed in Columbus OH.  Within a very short time, someone referred me to Leslie Zak.  The name rang a bell….Leslie’s had been one of the tapes that Anne had given me, and Leslie was the Columbus OH CMN rep!  So I fell onto CMN in 1998, and have been a happy member since.

How have the conferences changed over the years?

When I first joined CMN, the conferences were called “gatherings” and there seemed to be a lot more time for networking and informal conversations.  When the name changed, certain things were added, like a Keynote speaker and more workshops, that are wonderful for teachers who need credit for attending the conference, but that seemed to eat up the extra time that I loved.

What has been dropped that you miss about them and want back?

As above….some breathing time!

What has been added that you really love?

I love the dance parties that have been done before dinner on Friday evenings for the last few years.

What leadership roles have you played, or workshops have you lead?

I have led a variety of workshops over the years, the first one at my first conference, on music and movement techniques.  Since then I have led games workshops and a lot of differently themed song-swaps. I joined the CMN board in 2008, and was Board president for two years.  When I resigned in 2013, I co-chaired the 2013 conference in Los Gatos, CA. Chairing a conference, though a lot of work, is also a tremendous amount of fun!  I highly recommend it 🙂

What were the fundraisers you felt have really worked well?

Cookies!  Cookies seem to bring a lot of money 🙂
There was also a number of years when we used to auction off the use of the CMN quilt, and that used to bring in lots of money.

What was your favorite location and why?

I’ve never been good at answering “what was your favorite” questions!  I have too many favorites, because each place offered something special.

I loved the Cape Cod location, because I love the ocean.  Though I only managed to get out to the beach for a quick walk, knowing it was there made me feel great 🙂

I also loved Los Gatos.  The whole set-up there felt very conducive to creating community.

And I love where this year’s conference is going to be, in Zion Illinois.  This is the third time that we will be there.  I think it is also a great set-up for community building, which we are so good at anyway.  But having the lake and the water and the forest trails nearby for quick breathers is great.

To register for the conference click here.


  1. Thank you, Joanie, for sharing your enthusiasm for CMN and the annual conference / gathering. It’s always a highlight of my year, since so many great songs and memories are gathered to sustain me through the year. It’s also fantastic to renew long-time friendships and meet the many friends that one only knows “virtually” through the listserv. Exciting, engaging times – with sweet, sweet music.

  2. The Friday night dances are not new, they are returning. I remember them as a regular feature in the olden days, but maybe that’s because I liked them. What I like best about the conferences are the people. Whatever the structure, we manage to have fun and learn stuff, because we are amusing and curious people.

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