How Can We Keep From Singing?

Blog Editor Alina Celeste recaps our most recent International Conference.

Jose Luis and I, dancing for the camera.
Jose Luis and I, dancing for the camera.

Our annual conference was just a few weeks ago, and I am still singing, dancing and smiling in my heart. This yearly gathering of song, support, learning and boundless love is such a unique, unmissable event! To be surrounded by fellow musicians and educators is to feel that you are among friends even if you have never met.

Los Gatos was soggier than expected this year, but we know the rain was much-needed in parched California!  We all sloshed merrily about with colorful, polka-dotted umbrellas that some enterprising soul brought and sold as a CMN fundraiser. The yearly bake-walk was a delicious hit, Dave Kinnoin’s famous chocolate chip cookies were joined by many other wonderful delicacies, like raw coconut cookies, pumpkin cranberry cookies and rice crispy treats galore. There were many conversations, songs and laughs shared over the short three days we spent at the charming Presentation Center.

A few highlights from this year in Los Gatos:

Children's Music Network Conference 2016, Los Gatos, CA
Melanie DeMore – photo by Kayte Deioma

Friday night kicked off with a Shabbat, a Contra-dance and the first half of our Round Robin. Saturday morning the workshops began, followed by this year’s Keynote Speaker, the incomparable Vocal Activist Melanie DeMore, who roused and enlightened us all with her wisdom and compassion. As she reminded us, the hero is the one, like Harriet Tubman, who finds the light and then turns back and brings others to it. We sang with her and learned from her.

More workshops followed in the afternoon. A popular one this year was with member and ventriloquist Val Smalkin, also Jane Cobb gave a fascinating and often moving masterclass on fostering attachment in infants with music.  After dinner, several members donated their time for mentoring sessions on topics as far reaching as working with children on the autism spectrum, starting a YouTube channel and setting up tours. Saturday night we continued the endlessly (ehem) entertaining Round Robin – our member showcase. I never fail to learn a new song, or to be unexpectedly moved by someone’s work.

Children's Music Network Conference 2016, Los Gatos, CA
Round Robin Fun – photo by Kayte Deioma

Sunday morning we had one more round of workshops – one more chance to learn something new. Member Jackson Gillman gamely stepped in at the last minute for a presenter with a canceled flight and taught a wonderful class on creating a seamless performance.

After the final workshops, we gathered together for our Magic Penny ceremony. This year’s recipient was Jose Luis Orozco. We spent a wonderful and inspiring morning celebrating his work with him and many of his closest friends and family. He graced us with his humor and his song.

Children's Music Network Conference 2016, Los Gatos, CA
Jose Luis and a few members at his Magic Penny Ceremony. Photo Credit – Kayte Deioma

We finished with our closing circle. It is hard to leave the warmth and harmonies behind, but the strength I gain from each conference stays with me for the next year, reminding me that there are others who have devoted their lives to children and music and they are there to help, guide and listen, whenever needed.

What are some of your favorite memories from this year??


  1. Alina, thank you so much for this excellent recapping of the conference! Let us not forget to thank the AMAZING organizers–these incredible events don’t just happen by themselves, although the spirit of CMN infuses each conference with a unique quality each time.

    I attended and LOVED Val Smalkin’s (what a great name for a children’s performer!) sock puppet-making and ventriloquism workshop. She is a master artist, performer and teacher and we all had so much fun! I cherish my new little friend even though my cat also adores her so much she wants to eat her…

    The Keynote was one of the best in my memory. Melanie is a master and she energized and inspired us all–exactly what a great keynote speaker ought to do! I give the KN committee (of which I am a part–ahem!) a pat on the back.

    And the Magic Penny ceremony was joyous and uplifting. I too always come away from the conference renewed and inspired. This has been a tough year for us and my heart really needed to be there despite the considerable expenses. I try never to miss these conferences because of that and so much more!

    As I’ve said before, going to these conferences is like mining for diamonds (ethical ones, of course!), and I never fail to come away with treasures. Thank you, CMN!!!!

  2. Thanks for this, Alina. It was a great weekend with many, many highlights. I particularly love kicking off the conference with dancing, and this year’s band did an excellent job providing great music and easy-to-follow instructions! Thanks to all who made that happen, and thanks to my favorite dance partner, Luke. xo

  3. Beautiful recap Alina, thank you! It was indeed an inspiring Conference with so many magical, musical moments! For the record, our award winning chocolate chip cookie guru Dave Kinnoin was the same thoughtful, enterprising soul who provided the brightly colored umbrellas!

    I loved meeting some new friends and re-connecting with a few ‘old’ ones as well as putting faces & lives together from Forum posts that pour in throughout the year.

    An indelible highlight for me was reconnecting with old friend Freesia Raine who had this amazing Hawaiian song she wanted to share at the Round Robin but needed friends to help with the motions … did I think anyone would want to help, she asked? Seriously?! With Freesia leading the way, our delighted intergenerational group rehearsed in the atrium where the lighting and acoustics were SO perfect ~ that moment of rehearsal & learning, in and of itself, fed my soul! Of course, we performed with her in the ‘Robin and the song is still singing on in me as well as in others, I know!

  4. Great report Alina! For me the boundless love is at the core of the event and fills my heart to overflowing.
    I, too, try never too miss an annual Conference no matter where in the country it is located. It has become such a priority to me. I even skipped my high school class reunion without a second thought. 🙂

  5. Great reporting on a terrific weekend. The whole thing was stellar!

  6. Yay Alina for a wonderful recap. With all the (ahem) events of this past week, it’s taken me til now to read your article, so it was nice to be transported back to that weekend not so long ago really. One of my local friends commented on a post I had put on my facebook page with a picture from Nancy Schimmel’s wonderful storytelling workshop that I looked I was with my “tribe.” Yes indeed, I was, and thanks to modern technology I can stay in touch with everyone throughout the year, but those virtual connections are only a space-saver for the real live hugs and laughter and voices we share at CMN conferences. Miss you all!

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