Friday, February 26, 2010

Children’s Musicians Celebrate The Power of Music in Children’s Lives

By Jim Kanak
Staff Columnist
Like many young mothers, South Berwick’s Sammie Haynes started to create songs to entertain her son when he was born in 1989. Little did she know at the time that her song writing would lead to a life long pursuit of children’s music. Nor did she realize that it would expose her to a nationwide network of people, many like herself, that devote themselves to creating children’s music and supporting the wide range of people that use it. That group is known as the Children’s Music Network.
“Many of us started doing children’s music when we had kids,” Haynes said. “I would sing to my son at night before bed. I started making up short, little songs. Later, when he was in school, I ‘d go to his classroom and sing.”
Eventually, Haynes produced a CD. That’s when she got involved with the Children’s Music Network, a group whose membership includes musicians, teachers, librarians, song leaders and choral directors, social workers, parents and others who care about kids’ music.
“I joined in 2005 because I had just released a second children’s CD,” Haynes said. “Someone from CMN wrote to me. She said she liked my new CD and I should become a member. I did. Soon thereafter, they had a regional gathering in Amherst, Mass. I instantly felt that I belonged to this fabulous group of people. They were very positive and welcoming. It was a wonderful experience.”
Haynes estimated that about 100 people in New England belong to the network, which has its headquarters in Evanston, Ill., near Chicago. Liz Buchanan of Massachusetts is a representative on the national board. She said the network is driven primarily by volunteers.
“There’s one staff person,” Buchanan said. “Otherwise it’s all volunteer run. People do it out of the goodness of their hearts.”
Buchanan got involved with CMN around 2000, after following a path into children’s music that paralleled Haynes.’ “I started when my kids were little,” she said. “They grew up but I kept making music.”
She said the network serves an important function. “It’s a great resource for anything related to children’s music,” she said. “It’s a national network that has great gatherings, with singing and workshops (on a variety of topics). It benefits children because it helps provide support to people who work with music and kids.”
Buchanan and Haynes have been involved recently in helping to plan the network’s regional conference, which will be on March 13, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. The program is titled The Power of Music in Children’s Lives and features Ruth Pelham, a noted singer and songwriter from Albany, N.Y. Pelham will offer the keynote address. “Ruth is an icon in children’s music,” Buchanan said. “She’s a fabulous talent and individual.”
There will also be several workshops available to attendees, and the day will end with a CMN tradition, known as the Round Robin, where attendees have a chance to share a children’s song or musical activity with the group.
“The Round Robin is the highlight for me personally,” Haynes said. “I get all charged up to try new songs.”
That, Haynes said, is the essence of the network. “It enables people like me to get together and learn more and share more,” she said. “People come of all grades of performing and teaching. I’ve learned a lot. It’s a vital force for me.”
For more information, email Haynes at