Reflections on the 30th Children’s Music Network Conference

First, let me say a big Happy Birthday to the Children’s Music Network! Before we go any further, please enjoy a celebratory cyber cupcake!

Children’s Music Network Conference in Hyannis, MA

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post! (Smiles) The Children’s Music Network’s 30th Anniversary Conference was an experience to behold. Attending the CMN conference is like going to a big musical class reunion with your socially conscious best friends from all over the nation!

There’s a song for every occasion and a hug at every corner. It’s nearly impossible to catch the viral positivity that such a gathering of children’s musicians brings. From the marathon of singing at the Round Robin to the music education workshops, there was something for everyone.

Every year, I always look forward to square dancing as a joyful way to kick off the conference as it’s so beautiful to hear the live band play.

Another one of my favorite moments was the Magic Penny Award program in honor of Sally Rogers. The ceremony’s musical tribute by Sally Rogers daughters and colleagues was very moving! 

I hope everyone gets a chance to be honored for their great work in this way. This year’s conference was extra special to me because I joined the Board of Directors for CMN.  look forward to working behind the scenes to help CMN grow and grow. I asked our members to share their favorite memories. Here’s what they had to say:

Children’s Music Network Conference in Hyannis, MA

“I woke up this morning and realized, I feel happy!  I feel filled up, and connected, and excited about music and children and making more videos and learning some of the many wonderful songs I heard over the weekend.  I teach music in two schools and don’t get much time to talk with other teachers.  I so valued all of the conversations this weekend, long or short, with new friends or old, about whatever. Thank you so, so much!  You filled me with love!”

-Kim Wallach

Children’s Music Network Conference in Hyannis, MA

“The highlight for me was having new members tell me how welcomed they felt and so see them jump in the RR and other projects with joy. CMN is so good at incorporation in the best sense of that word, of course!”

-Val Smalkin

Children’s Music Network Conference in Hyannis, MA

“Argh, do I have to choose?  I was never any good at those “favorite” questions because it was all really wonderful.  But here is what jumps out in my head:

  • Seeing friends that I rarely get to see.
  • Meeting new people, hearing how they found CMN, and broadening that definition of “friends” to include them as well.
  • Playing in the “band” for the Friday night square-dancing was a blast.
  • Workshops where I get to NOT be the presenter and hear about the great work that others are doing, learning new angles to how I can offer music.
  • Presenting a workshop and getting to play with my friends!
  • This year’s Keynote was very thought-provoking for me.
  • And the Magic Penny was just downright fun.
  • Late night jamming one night, and then late night acoustic singing the other night….such harmonies!

Ummmmm – I think it’s safe to say that it was all good!”

-Joanie Calem

Children’s Music Network Conference in Hyannis, MA

“Among so many, one of my favorites was the opening.  Having my song “All the Way Around the World” chosen as the conference anthem made leaving many years on the board and last year as co-president seem like a special goodbye. I hope there is a video of it somewhere! Other highlights included connecting with faraway friends, dancing, singing together, Alina Celeste’s  workshop, meeting Ken Whiteley, listening, and much more. Much love to all, and thanks to the conference planners who are true movers and shakers! “  

-Katherine Dines

Children’s Music Network Conference in Hyannis, MA

“Hey Everybody – I’d have to agree with Jessica; the dancing seemed so joyful – even to watch. My foot malady made it too painful to join, but the joy, smiles, and laughter were everywhere!”

-Tina Stone 

Children’s Music Network Conference in Hyannis, MA

“It’s so hard to choose any one thing. I loved reconnecting with old friends and meeting new people. I enjoyed the songs, as always; and just the warm spirit, the love, and the joy! It was a wonderful experience, as it always is.”

-Janet Beatrice

Children’s Music Network Conference in Hyannis, MA

“Of course it was great to see my longtime musical friends and colleagues from all over the country! It is soul-renewing just to see all your faces and hear you sing, and harmonize with you, and be in your presence. I also enjoyed seeing the “newer generation” of CMN folks, Alina, Jessica, Alastair, Mr. & Ms. G, Stacy Peasley & more! As many of you know, it was a major goal of mine in 7 years on the board to bring in new faces & voices! So glad to see two of these join the board – along with terrific energy from many others who’ve joined the board since my departure. LOVED the Magic Penny! Sally Rogers is a true treasure to the world and CMN. Loved Alina’s workshop on YouTube, coupled with Patricia’s workshop on making videos. I felt excited about putting more of my music out to the world in that way. More to come – I’ll let you know when I post next on my blog and YouTube! Cheers!”

-Liz Buchanan

Children’s Music Network Conference in Hyannis, MA

“ I am so glad to have reconnected with so many of my friends from CMN. My favorite memory from the Conference, by far, has to be the amazing performance of the song “Love Is A Song” that Sally Rogers’ daughters sang for her, accompanied by Claudia Schmidt and the amazing fiddler (whose name I am ashamed to say I don’t know – I don’t recall that he was introduced by name).  The rendition of the song “Farewell My Friends, I’m Bound For Canaan” by Sally, Claudia, and Ken Whiteley, and her “Pass It On” always bring me to tears.  I have sung the former many times at family funerals.  I remember the first time she sang “Pass It On” after writing it for Pete Seeger, who had given the Keynote Presentation that year at CMN. In addition, I always go every conference planning to sing until the wee hours each night with “The Up-Too-Late Stringband”, and I have always been overjoyed to sing with friends, and inspired by all the great music that happens “after-hours” at the Jam each time I come to CMN.”

Dave Orleans

Children’s Music Network Conference in Hyannis, MA

“I concur with everyone who has posted about the difficulty in choosing one favorite moment at the conference. Best of all is, of course, seeing old friends I only get to see once a year.  But it’s never long enough and always too fleeting.  Still, it reminds me that I’m not alone and that there are such excellent singers, songwriters, teachers, librarians, parents and more who walk this path with me. I continue to come to the annual conferences when we can (I believe I’ve only missed 2 in 30 years?) because it renews me.  When I’m feeling discouraged, disheartened, weary of the struggle, I only have to come to these weekends to be uplifted and filled with song and optimism.  It reminds me of why I have stubbornly stayed in children’s music for decades despite its ups and downs: because what matters most to me are children, music, and education.  Where else can I find such a wealth of excellent songs about important matters?  Where else can I find like-minded people who truly care about what matters? I did love presenting my “making music videos” workshop because it compelled me to think about what others might need to learn, how I could present it all in just 1.25 hours in a way that was understandable and concise and useful.  I didn’t know how useful the material would be, I just tried to make it make sense and hopefully inspire others to try this fun medium themselves. And I loved the song swaps I went to Sarah Pirtle and Bonnie Lockhart’s, and Amy Conley’s.  I love coming to CMN to go “mining” for gold for my work, and I ALWAYS strike it rich!!! Thank you CMN, my heart.

-Patricia Shih


Children’s Music Network Conference in Hyannis, MA

As you can see from these reflections, we had a musically refreshing and rejuvenating good time! Special thanks to Auntie Kayte Deioma for contributing photos for this post! To see video coverage, check out our Facebook page!  Also, here’s a friendly invitation to join us next year in Sandusky, Ohio for CMN 2018! 


Now’s your time to share: What was your favorite part of the conference? Share in the comments below and I’ll add them to this blog post!  



  1. Like Joanie, I find it really hard to single out one favorite moment. But hearing Malana and Maya sing for their mom has to be way near the top. I remember them at five and three, sitting on the floor at our National Gathering (that’s what we called them back then) in Warwick, New York in 1993, the year Sally wrote We’ll Pass Them On. So to see them all grown up– and consummate performers with gorgeous voices and a stage presence to match— was a special joy.
    My other glorious find was Kari Thomas Kovicks. I bought her CD, produced by Ken Whiteley, entitled “It’s You I Like,” listened all the way home and have already used 3 songs in my teaching this week.

  2. Jessica, I love how you wrote: “There’s a song for every occasion and a hug at every corner.” That’s exactly right and those 2 things are definite highlights of every CMN conference. I’ve always felt that there’s never enough time to visit with everyone at a conference but this time finally realized it doesn’t matter. We’re always connected in heart, spirit, song or through the Internet. We can contact one another anytime all year long for an idea, a question, a problem or to say hello. At the conference the focus is singing, celebrating (30 years!), making eye contact, hugging and sharing . Did love the Magic Penny Award in particular, though – yay Sally!
    Thanks to everyone who worked so hard and did such a great job!

  3. So many many favorites! I’d say my most favorite was the honoring of Sally Rogers for her lifetime commitment to children and children’s music. She is truly deserving of the Magic Penny!

  4. For me, “We’ll Pass Them On,” written by Sally Rogers, captures the mission and spirit of CMN as I’ve come to know it over the past 7 yrs. The annual conference begins on Friday night with a welcoming song and ends in a closing circle singing “We’ll Pass Them On” which moves me to tears every time I sing it. In between the conference builds over the weekend with dance, singing, connection and terrific workshops. Finally on Sunday we honor one person as our Magic Penny recipient with a powerful, moving ceremony that takes months to put together. This year, so fittingly honoring Sally Rogers, with many emotional songs, and remembrances from so many in her life, including a beautiful duet by her daughters and from her long-time singing partner, Claudia Schmidt. So I guess I if I have give you my most lasting memory– it would be the Magic Penny. “We will plant the simple seed of singing in the world and we’ll sing them with the children who will pass them on”

    1. Thanks! I’ll add this to the blog next! This will be a great addition!

  5. Wow, Jessica! You captured the excitement and comaraderie of the weekend so beautiful in words and pictures. THANK YOU!!

  6. As we scrolled down, we just smiled . And kept smiling. That about says it.
    Ed and Carol Nicodemi

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