One of the first songs my daughter learned was "Magic Penny," by Malvina Reynolds. Parents and kindergartners sang it together when Bellingham songwriter and music educator Tom Hunter performed at Lowell Elementary.
Tom was much beloved in the music community, not only in Whatcom County but around the country for leading workshops and conferences for early childhood educators, as well as keeping up his concert schedule. He also co-founded and directed the Northwest Teachers Conference.
One of Tom's favorite events was his annual Christmas concert, initially held at First Congregational Church, where he once was a pastor, then at Mount Baker Theatre when the audience outgrew the church.
Tom died in June 2008 from a neurodegenerative disease. During his last days, many musicians from Bellingham, including Linda Allen, Marie Eaton, Richard Scholtz and Laura Smith, kept company with him, singing his and other songs.
Then-Gov. Chris Gregoire designated Oct. 24, 2008, as "Tom Hunter Day: A Day for Singing."
One of the last things Tom told his family was "keep it going." So I was thrilled to see that his son, Aeden, recently posted on Facebook that his dad had been awarded the "Magic Penny Award" from the Children's Music Network, a nonprofit group in Massachusetts.
Tom Pease of CMN called Aeden "out of the blue" in November and let him know that Tom would be the 2013 recipient. Aeden then called Gwen, Tom's wife, and his sister, Irene, to share the news.
Previous recipients include Woody Guthrie, Ruth Crawford Seeger (Pete Seeger's stepmother) and Tom Chapin.
Aeden, Irene and Gwen will be flown to the CMN conference in California in October to receive the award. Aeden told me that Bev Bos, a California educator who collaborated with Tom on many songs and albums, will present the honor.
Tom and Gwen started The Song Growing Co. decades ago, she told me. They traveled and sang together in schools, churches and community centers until Aeden began school.
Aeden, she said, would often be in his wicker baby basket behind the stage curtains while they performed. It must have had a good influence, because Aeden later started his own band, SpaceBand. Aeden recorded with his parents and often played bass backup at live performances. Irene sang on a couple of albums as well.
After Tom's death, Gwen and Aeden have kept Song Growing going. Aeden also created and maintains the tomhunter.com website.
People still order Tom's CDs, Gwen said, and there have been requests for a Tom Hunter songbook, so, with help, Gwen has been collecting and creating sheet music for at least two books of Tom's songs.
Gwen and Aeden both told me that Tom and Bev Bos shared a deep concern about how pressures on public schools are causing teachers to loose sight of their humanity. Aeden says his dad realized the language of music can help teachers and children recognize the importance of "finding those moments when the heart shows up, moments that peek around the corner and need to be invited farther into the room so we can see them," something Tom wrote in his book of essays, "Visits to the Heart of Education: Remembering What's Important."
One of the last songs Tom wrote was "As Human as They Can Be," Gwen said. The song includes these lines:
"How can we prepare our children for a world we cannot yet see?
I think we work hard so they can become as human as they can be.
What happened to playing, to wonder and passion, to art and creativity?
When test scores are all we have left, we have lost the heart of our humanity."
Details on the award: cmnonline.org/magic-penny/2013-tom-hunter.htm.
KIDS' SHOW AT BLOEDEL GOING TO THE DOGS
Amanda Grove at Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department let me know about the upcoming Kids' Dog Show, now in its 31st year, March 2 at Bloedel Donovan Community Building.
While the public is welcomed at the event, space for pooches to compete is limited. Kids in kindergarten through fifth grade can enter their dogs in the show, but advance registration is mandatory.
Categories include best costume, most laid back, happiest face, tallest, shortest, longest ears, loosest skin and most colorful/eye-catching. No experience necessary, Amanda says. Friendly fidos only, please.
The event is free, but donations of dog food for local animal shelters are encouraged. Details: 360-778-7000 or www.cob.org/ezreg.
BELLINGHAM'S VERVEX IN RUNNING FOR 'SOUND OFF!' PRIZE
EMP Museum recently announced its semifinalists for Sound Off! 2013, the Northwest's premier 21-and-under battle of the bands.
Out of 131 submissions, 12 bands have been chosen to compete for the grand prize of performing at Bumbershoot, Seattle's largest music and arts festival.
Vervex, a Bellingham indie-pop band, is among the 12 and will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at EMP.
Four semifinalists will advance to the final round March 2 in EMP's Sky Church.
Tickets for each round are $12 general, $8 for students and EMP members. Details: EMPmuseum.org.