At this year’s annual Children’s Music Network International Conference, being held at the beautiful Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center in Zion, Illinois, on October 12-14, 2012, we will be celebrating Silver Anniversary of CMN.  As part of the celebration, we would like to include our members’ memories of the 25 years that we have been gathering and singing together.  We hope to hear from lots of our members: what are some of the adventures that you have had with CMN?  What are some of your favorite memories?  What have you appreciated most about CMN as you and the organization have grown and changed?  And of course, what are some of the songs that you learned in CMN that have become part of your repertoire?  (With a nod to CMN’s parent organization, the People’s Music Network, we will be incorporating one of their guidelines, that songs shared will be songs written by someone other than the singer!)

We also invite you to join us in our planning meetings if you would like!  Contact Joanie Calem at for meeting times and details.  If you are not a CMN member yet, we hope you’ll consider coming to one of our conferences – they’re events not to be missed.

Please post your thoughts below.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Many thanks from the Silver Celebration Planning Committee:  Joanie Calem, David Heitler-Klevans, Nancy Hershatter, Sarah Pirtle, Carole Stephens, Kim Wallach


  1. Last year in Hyannis at the gathering, i was amazed to see the people I had sung with all night until 5:30 a.m. walking around looking refreshed at 9:00 a.m.! I thought maybe it had been a dream…. Several years back a group was up until 1:00 a.m. singing on the first night we arrived, having a great time, until someone said “We better go to bed so we can stay up really late tomorrow night!” And we did. Really late.
    Then there was the year in Freedom NH– I had a terrible cold Sat. night, was lying in bed listening to about 50 people on the floor below me singing wonderful old songs late into the night, I thought, “well, wish I could be down there, but at least i get to hear them!” and feeling glad i was not in a separate building from all the fun.
    CMN gatherings are a blast. Not only do you learn lots of great songs and music activities, you meet incredible people who are young at heart, have a great sense of humor, and are dedicated to creating a better world. I love CMN!

  2. Memory: At one of the earliest meetings of CMN, when it was still meeting for part of a day during the PMN weekend, we were going around the circle–maybe 25 of us–with a time limit for each person. Somebody–I think it was Sarah Pirtle–directed the timekeeper to start humming when the time was up and we were all to pick that up until the person speaking noticed and stopped. If that didn’t work, we were to start making kissing noises.
    I’m glad we have managed to keep this playful spirit in our organization.
    The songs I found through CMN that I use most are Stuart Stotts’ “So Many Ways To Be Smart” and David and Jenny Heitler-Klevans’ “Love Makes a Family.”

  3. That’s People’s Music Network, could you add that to my post?

  4. I came to my first CMN gathering/conference in Petaluma, CA in 2006. At the time, I was deciding if I should try to make a living doing children’s music. Here I am six years later, still at it! CMN has been a great help to me in the process. People have helped me find gigs and jobs, advised on my CDs, and become some of my closest friends.
    When I think back to that first conference (I came all the way from Boston), here are some things that stuck with me: the drum kit on the stage, and soon all around it were about six or eight really talented musicians who played together like they’d been doing it forever. The audience sang everything – in amazing harmony – AND did all the motions, including lots of enormously silly stuff you never ever see adults do in polite company. When I got my chance to play a song for everyone at 11:30 on Saturday night (2:30 east coast time) – there was huge support for a newbie who must have looked pretty bleary-eyed.
    In my school classes, I still sing songs I learned at that CA conference. Just today, I performed “Rockin’ in the Rabbit Hole” three times and the fans went wild. In fact, most of the children’s songs I sing regularly in schools – except the ones I wrote myself – are ones I learned from friends in CMN. Thanks, everyone!

  5. When I joined CMN in the early 90s, I was deeply involved in writing songs on assignment for family entertainment and educational companies that were held in some disdain by some of the aficionados of homegrown music who fastidiously avoided traveling the blatantly commercial road. I was then and remain unapologetic about working with companies who sometimes behave badly, but by associating with the kindhearted, peaceful CMN folks, who seemed more worried about having gender or age bias in their songs than encountering a bear in the Black Hills of North Carolina, I began to change into a gentler, more thoughtful person. I actually revised some lyrics after attending Bonnie Lockhart’s anti-bias seminar at an early regional gathering. I have become a better listener, a more patient and demonstrative father and husband, and…a more commercially successful songwriter! I still hunt and drive a big van and fertilize my lawn–I didn’t go nuts on the happy train–but I am eternally grateful to those who have helped me grow in wonderful ways I might have otherwise missed.

  6. Here’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it…..

    Back in 1990 a teacher and her class presented me with a huge banner
    that said, “One World Handle With Care”, with a picture of the earth
    made with blue and green handprints. I used it for many Earth Day
    events, including the huge 20th Anniversary of Earth Day in

    Then I brought it to CMN in Beacon, NY, when it was a Friday event
    before the PMN Weekend. Having to leave before PMN got started, I must
    have left it there unintentionally, and the next issue of Pass It On!
    I saw that the banner was prominently displayed in a couple of the
    photos of the event. When I tried to find out what had happened to it,
    no one seemed to know. For years I had no idea where the banner had
    gone, and figured it was lost for good.

    Then out of the blue, about 8 years later, Joanne Hammil called me up
    and said that she was cleaning out some old CMN stuff from her house,
    and came across a banner with my name in the corner. I’m not sure how
    I got it back, whether at a later CMN Gathering, or by mail, but ever
    since then it has been proudly used as an backdrop every year for some
    Earth Day festival or another. Thanks, CMN, and Joanne for an “Extra
    Special Delivery”.

  7. Songs, songs, always the songs and beautiful harmony—not only of voices but of minds and spirits too—this has been the lifeblood and the gift of The Children’s Music Network throughout the years. At its very heart, are wonderful creative people committed to sharing skills and an experience that values and encourages both the singer and the song. I can’t think of another group that has had as big an impact on my own music with children than CMN. The deep friendships, the open-hearted sharing and the music are at the very center of its appeal and its relevance for me. I was one of the founders and organizers of The Midwest People’s Music Network in 1981 and every few years throughout the ‘80s I would go out east for the Songs of Freedom and Struggle/People’s Music Network’s gatherings to share songs and support. When I started doing music with children in 1986, it was the children’s song workshops at these PMN weekends that were especially rich. As my musical work with children expanded, so did my interest and connection to CMN grow. We had CMN Midwest Regional get-togethers in 1991 and 1992 that I was part of, but my first national CMN conference was the day-long gathering in Albany New York in January of 1992 that preceded the PMN weekend there. I remember that afternoon in particular, not really in any one individual song, but rather the wonderful feeling of being with other like-minded people who worked with children and had similar goals as me—songs to nurture children and create a healthy world. There I found a well-spring of songs to learn and a supportive place to share the songs I had written. Over the years since then, I have worked in many different ways within CMN, and that has always held true—good-hearted people, generously sharing and working in meaningful ways through music with children. I look forward this October to another weekend of the same—warm reunions with old friends and delightful encounters with new friends too all filled with vibrant songs and glorious harmonies!

  8. I just returned totally refreshed and invigorated from the Silver Anniversary Celebration of CMN at our National Conference in Zion, IL. At the conference, I pledged to become a sustaining donor, which means rather than having to come up with a chunk of change all at once, I can spread it over the year. This helps me and it helps CMN to stay on an e en financial keel. After I made the on-line donation (which took all of 2 minutes max), I noticed that there are, so far, only a handful of sustaining donors. I encourage you all to give the little extra you can give each month, even if it is only $5 or $10. This adds up to a strong organization that can count on a certain income each month. If all 400 of us each pledged $5/month, that would add up to $2,000/month or $24,000 in a year. We could give Jane Arsham in the central office a raise if we all participated in this way!!!! So, I encourage you all to do your part. The support I have received in my work through this organization has been tremendously helpful. I never feel alone in this often isolating work we do. Let’s keep CMN around for another 25 years!

  9. I have once again been inspired by all the wonderful music and people at the conference in Zion this year. I am re-listening to the music I recorded and inspired to teach great new-to-me songs to my children’s choir. Is there a list I can get of the Round Robin songs, performers and writers so I can acknowledge them if we sing their songs?

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