The highlight of the CMN conference was the celebration of Ruth Pelham with the Magic Penny award. The song referenced is the great tune by Malvina Reynolds, and it was cool that her daughter started off the event, a lady I had unknowingly shared dinner with the night before.
Ruth established the Music Van in Albany, NY, near my old home town of Delmar. Starting in the 70’s, she would drive her colorful van into the poorer sections of the city, and involve kids in music, simple instrument making, art and more. She molded her activist skills from the peace, ecology and feminist movements in the 60’s and made a difference in her community. She actually created community when there was none.
One person stated that she was always playing on the road, not home games, taking her skills into other’s neighborhoods and not just playing in the comfortable folk venues.
Ruth was an original founder of CMN, so many folks came up to sing her songs, so she was thrilled to hear them done by her friends. I was not familiar with any of her works, so it was quite an ear-opener for me. A wide variety of songs of hope, family, intergenerational relationships, peace, and, of course, love.
What made this event turn my thoughts around? I whad been in my ego-mode, trying to establish my cred in my first visit to this conference through the few opportunities I had to play my songs. But, I realized that this group was not about professional presentation, but a common love and respect for the effort to change the world through children’s music. Not everyone has the skills I have as a performer, but that does not dilute the heart of their efforts in this important work.
Under One Sky, Love is All Around, What Do I Do When My sister is Crying, Four Hands and more are songs I have to get familiar with.
It was the right thing for me at the end of the conference to corral my folk ego and see the bigger picture. Thanks, Ruth Pelham.