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Features | Fall 2015

Sharing Our Strengths

The CMN Song Library

My hands stretch up to a shelf just beyond my head and feel around in the dust for the object. After shifting my hands left and right across boxes, unidentifiable items, and plastic bins containing the tchotchkes of my lifetime, I finally feel the desired piece—an old, unmarked shoebox recognized by the dent in the cover and the width slightly wider than my outstretched hand. I’d know that box anywhere.

Gingerly I pull the box down and gently brush the top with a sweep of my hand, inhaling the particles of time that now float freely through the air. It has been a while, and my anticipation is growing; I’m as giddy as a child opening a shiny gift on my birthday. The unlidded box of small, plastic boxes reveals a flood of memories, like wonderful friends at a reunion. I tenderly flip the cassette cases toward me, carefully eyeing each narrow label. Where is it? It has to be here. Didn’t I put it back last time? No! Don’t tell me it’s not in here! But where is it? My fingers fumble through the remaining rattling boxes more quickly. Hooray! Here it is! Reunited and it feels so good! I knew I’d never part with my James Taylor cassette! I heave a sigh of relief. The fact that I own this same music on CD, my cell phone, and my iPod still cannot compare to the joy of holding that beloved little plastic box of musical memories in my hand. My mind is flooded with a variety of emotions as I read the familiar list of songs. I recall where I was, who was with me, what was happening in my life—who I was when this was my most-played album, the one that was always with me.

The past which is not recoverable in any other way is embedded, as if in amber, in music, and people can regain a sense of identity. Oliver Sacks

I’m sure my fondness for music—and the iconic remembrances of cassette boxes, “spider” 45 RPM adapters, eight-track tapes, and even the familiar sound of a “skip” on a well-played record—is shared by many of you. Some of us proudly display our musical relics, while others harbor them in closets to avoid the shudder-inducing suggestion that they could be “given away.” Some of us relished each shift to the latest technology and never looked back. No matter what your relationship with the “stuff” of music, we all share a passion for the actual music itself and the way it can move us, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically.

Scrapbooking Our Past
As CMN members we have a unique opportunity to share our passion for music with others in our community. We share our ideas and songs, our lyrics and sheet music in an effort to connect with our fellow members and say, “I hear you. I feel what you’re feeling. I want what you want. Let me help you get there. Let me show you how I’ve done that so it can be easier for you and the next artist.”

Our membership is an amazing and receptive audience, but sharing our community’s work would not be possible without the dedication of long-time member Dave Orleans, who assumed the role of Unofficial Archivist. Since the pre-website inception of the Children’s Music Mailing List in 1998 and the later listserv, Dave has faithfully and lovingly culled and catalogued every song title, every shared song, every set of chords, every business-expanding suggestion and performance tip so that we can revisit those details when we most need them. Because of his work, these resources are not lost to us nor to CMN’s history. We are so grateful to Dave and CMN for being guardians of our musical history together.

Spreading Our Wings
I am indebted to Caroline Presnell for contributing the next part of the story. Caroline writes:

The official CMN website1 launched in early 2000 due to the foresight and commitment of the board and some members who were the technological visionaries. Their purposes for the site were enhancing the networking functions, sharing more widely what CMN had to offer, and expanding the network.

Their vision was implemented by an “online services team” (dealing with everything, not just technical aspects) whose core was Online Services Committee Chair Barb Tilsen; our web technician/designer, Carl Foote; and then–CMN National Coordinator Caroline Presnell, with Dave Trahan also providing web tech services during the Peace Pages project period. But the team always comprised a number of additional people, including some who contributed significant content or technical work.

Having the website running and its song database in development, and with the underlying organization support structure already in place, Barb Tilsen was able to pull together and post the original Peace Resources Pages within about a week of September 11, 2001.2

By early 2003, the growing database of songs was catalogued and searchable by keywords. Reflecting another of CMN’s values, in 2008, the Board approved the addition of the Environmental Song Resource Pages. Little by little, nurtured by the online services team, the website grew and more songs were added—some with audio files, lead sheets, or additional teaching strategies.

Widening Our Circle
Looking forward, we are excited by what new technology and growing membership offers our organization. In 2013, the Board approved the further development of Song Resources to include new and expanded categories with an emphasis on songs that support our values as an organization. We are thrilled to announce that with the commitment and collaboration of members Dave Orleans, Katherine Dines, and Lisa Heintz; Administrative Director Jane Arsham; and Webmaster Carl Foote, the latest iteration of Song Resources is ready for prime time. We even have a new name: the Song Library. The Song Library will include our original Peace and Environmental categories as well as Dave Orleans’ archives. It will eventually expand to include the topics Multicultural and Multilingual Songs, Friendship, Self-Esteem, Community-Building, Anti-Bias, Anti-Bullying, Social Justice, and many more!

Sharing Our Strengths
The Song Library launched in summer 2015 with members’ music that was already on the site, but broadened to include audio files and lyrics for all songs. Many members have also contributed lead sheets, sheet music, and additional resources. The Song Library will continue to grow and serve as a free resource available to artists, librarians, teachers, and other visitors to our site, providing the tools needed to actually learn a song and use it tomorrow—a one-stop source for like-minded folks who want to grow their repertoire with fine songs from fellow artists and members. What could be grander?

We know you can’t wait to get your music into the new Song Library site! We will announce the addition of each category when it is ready to launch. A new Online Only Membership level ($30) has recently been implemented to make membership even more affordable and encourage all members to include their work in the Song Library. Watch CMN correspondence, the monthly e-News, and PIO! for an invitation to submit your own songs via our new, easy-to-use online submission form. We can’t wait to see what our musical future holds—and we know you’ll want to be part of CMN’s identity, future, and history too!

1. “CMN’s online presence began in late 1996 as a few pages on Monty Harper’s own site, reached via his URL and maintained with the help of PJ Swift. The content was developed in collaboration with the CMN board while, over the next two to three years, board plans and actions were underway for an independent site. One of the planned features was a library of members’ songs, searchable by topic, the idea of which was mentioned in board minutes as early as 1993. The independent site went live in early fall of 1999.” (Caroline Presnell)

2. “The Peace Resources Pages were developed to immediately meet the emotional needs of our nation’s children, families, and colleagues following that devastation. Barb Tilsen, Phil Hoose, Beth Bierko, Scott Bierko, Barbara Wright, and others, with the support of fellow member and Dodge Foundation employee Lisa Garrison, were able to obtain a $10,000 grant to expand not only the Peace Resources but the scope of the entire CMN website. The grant was part of Dodge’s own response to the crisis.” (Caroline Presnell)