Lending Your Voice to the Work of Change
By Liz Benjamin
My hero, Pete Seeger—what can I say? He believed that the more we get together and sing about what we believe and hope and work for, the stronger and more determined we would be. Pete was an active member of the Children’s Music Network for many years, and we have named our conference scholarship fund in his honor.
Pete began leading others in song at age eight and started singing protest music at age twelve. He thought of the arts not just as music, but also as painting, dancing, food preparation, and, in a sense, sports also. He saw the arts as something that might save the human race. And the time to get involved in the arts is when you’re young. He always believed that children are ready and able to lend their voices and their hearts to the work of change. Seeing him singing with groups of children on the sloop Clearwater on the Hudson River was both a joyful and a stirring experience.
Children write songs about what they worry about and what they love and what makes them laugh. They sing important and silly songs, written by adults who love and respect children. When they sing together, and with adults, they are expressing their heartfelt caring, their hopes, and their dreams.
You don’t need to have a “good” voice. Instead, you need to have a good heart and a loud and brave enough voice to sing and speak for what you care about, what will really make a difference, even in just one little corner of the world at a time, for one seemingly little issue at a time. It all makes a big difference. Pete sang, wrote, and spoke all his life, and we can, too. On his banjo, around the front of it, are written the words, “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.” “Find the right songs,” he said, “and sing them over and over, and there will be hope for the world.”
These are hard and difficult times, and we need each other as much as we ever have. I really look forward to laughing and sharing with you and being inspired by you, both online and in the fall in Los Gatos. It has been an honor to serve as the president of the Children’s Music Network.