Letter From the Editor
by Ginger Lazarus
It is my great honor to assume the editorship of Pass It On! after three years as copy editor. I’ve met many of you at conferences and regional gatherings, and worked with some on your articles and columns. I’ve also been soaking up the wisdom and passion that is CMN by getting to know your music, your work, and your stories.
The theme for this issue comes from a song I remember learning in grade school. In “Get On Board,” the nineteenth-century spiritual featured in our Songs section, the train signifies spiritual salvation—though, like many spirituals, it also could have been a code for the Underground Railroad to freedom. Certainly the same song served well as an anthem for the Civil Rights movement.
While the world today feels dangerous and shaky to many, these seismic shifts are also opening doors to new possibilities. And so this theme does serve, in part, as a challenge: When we are presented with the opportunity to join up with a powerful force hurtling in a new direction, will we take it? When we are pushed to look at ways to make CMN—or our classrooms, or our communities, or our world—more inclusive and more just, are we ready to “get on board”?
Some intense discussions have lit up the CMN online forum in the last year, presenting serious questions about the songs we sing, our responsibility to understand history and context, and ultimately, who feels included or excluded in our community. The CMN Board of Directors, and our Conference Co-Chairs, have taken these questions to heart and woven them deeply into the programing for the upcoming conference in Ohio. In this issue, you will find a special conference preview in our interviews with Magic Penny Award recipients Kim and Reggie Harris and conference keynote speaker Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates. They dive head-on into the history of racism in America and its traumatic legacy, and also show, as does Devin Walker in his glorious Hambone feature, that music is a vital source of resilience and resistance in African American culture.
In a slightly different vein, Kate Munger and Val Smalkin explore music as a means of empowering and uplifting other vulnerable populations. Kate describes the work of the Threshold Choir, which sends singers to the bedsides of people with terminal illness, as well as into prisons. Val gives us the second installment of her songwriting and recording adventure with students at the Maryland School for the Blind. Both are not to be missed!
Songs in this issue include two powerful African American spirituals, as well tenderly spiritual melodies from the Threshold Choir. And to round it out, we have “But You Do,” a rousing member-created anthem about belonging. Our columnists found imaginative ways to weave this issue’s theme into their offerings, from Pro Song’s tips on writing songs about history to Music In Bloom’s playful invitation to hop on board “The Transition Train.”
PIO! would not be where it is today without the leadership of our departing editor, Brigid Finucane. Brigid and I debuted together in Fall 2015, along with a fresh look for our newly digital publication. Her high standards and broad vision for the journal pushed us to expand content and add design elements, resulting in a visually and thematically cohesive publication. I cannot thank Brigid enough for her guidance and friendship these last three years. I am also eternally grateful that our incredible teammates—Carl Foote, Kim Ziolkowski, and Val Smalkin—will stay in the trenches with me, and that Brigid, as editor emeritus and content advisor, is never farther than an e-mail away.
And finally, I extend a hearty welcome to our new copy editor, Heather Taylor, whose keen eyes went over every letter in this issue. In addition to her wide-ranging editorial experience, Heather comes to PIO! with a background in early childhood and elementary education and a great love of music. We are lucky to have her!
Hope you will get on board and join these many new ventures. Perhaps they will lead you to discover, as Kate Munger’s song so beautifully puts it, what light you shine in the world.