CDSS Lifetime Contribution Awards

2015 Award Recipient

CDSS is delighted to announce that Brad Foster, of Shutesbury, MA, longtime contra, square and English country dance teacher, caller and musician, and Executive and Artistic Director Emeritus of CDSS, is the 2015 recipient of our Lifetime Contribution Award.

Brad will be presented with his award at a celebration on Saturday, October 24, 2015, at the Athol Town Hall in Athol, MA. Download a PDF invitation to this event.

Congratulations, Brad!

Read Tom Kruskal's interview with Brad:   Part I     Part II

Photo by Marty Stock

2015 Posthumous Award Recipient

The late Warren Argo, a much-beloved Seattle old-time musician who worked with the Northwest Folklife Festival, Centrum’s Festival of Fiddle Tunes, and the Seattle Folklore Society, will be honored this fall by the Country Dance and Song Society.

He died in 2010 and will be the recipient of CDSS’s first Posthumous Lifetime Contribution Award. The article below is adapted from a tribute written by fellow musician and Seattleite Mike Richardson shortly after Warren’s death.

Warren ArgoWarren Argo (1942-2010) cast a long shadow over the Northwest and national folk scene for several decades. I’ve personally run into him staffing the Northwest Folklife Festival, Wannadance, the NW New Year’s Camp, the Lady of the Lake Camp, the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, the Alaska Folk Festival, and several of CDSS’s Pinewoods camps. That’s a lot of landscape that will seem a lot emptier without Warren around.

A tune played at a dance shortly after his death was Argo’s Reel, by Bob McQuillen. Bob’s inscription for that tune sums up a lot about Warren: “Warren Argo, sound man, caller, musician, indefatigable spark plug of the West Coast music and dance scene, is a great friend of the entire contradance community. I am so glad this tune came through with your name on it, Warren!’”

Warren was trained as an engineer, but no mere job description can adequately describe a man of such protean interests. A conversation with him might ramble through topics as diverse as quantum mechanics, Malthusian genetics, or the care and feeding of a skin banjo head. You could often get a clue as what he was reading and what was buzzing in his brain by the snippets of speech that would pop up in his dance calling.

In Warren-speak, a long lines forward and back became, “Smash, Bash, Crash, Bang!” A partner swing might be signaled by “Swing, you devils!,” and one particular dance move was taught at Folklife by, “...the ladies now wander down the center of the set, like an errant photon...”. Other tasty Warrenisms can be gleaned from “So What Is It About This Contra Dancing Anyway?” (, an article he wrote for the May 2002 issue of Victory Music Review.

I first met Warren in 1985, during the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, in Port Townsend, WA. I had recently moved to the Upper North Left, after wrapping up a zillion years of medical training. Fiddle Tunes was a Technicolor orgy of music, dance, late night jams, and bear hugs—lots different from the tight-sphinctered academic world I had just left. At the end of the week, just as we were all getting a little blue at the thought of leaving, these little flyers started popping up that said, “Have a good time at Fiddle Tunes this week?” Yeah, I sure did! “If so, come to the New Melody Tavern Monday night for Warren Argo and the Dregs of Fiddle Tunes, for one more night!” Wow, what a great idea! So, my wife and I showed up at the dance, where, as advertised, Warren and all of the other folks who couldn’t quite give up Brigadoon back into the mists carried on for several more hours of goodness.

At the end of the evening, I went up to Warren and gushed, “Gosh, Warren. It was awesome having one more night of Fiddle Tunes. Wouldn’t it be great if everyday were like Fiddle Tunes?” His answer: “Yes, it would. You know, Mike, personally, I’m up to about three or four days a week!”

A fine philosophy, and one that I’ve spent the last twenty-five years trying to emulate.

A celebration of Warren Argo was held on October 10, 2015 at Littlefield Farm, Arlington, Washington; Sandy Bradley was emcee. Our thanks to Mike Richardson for allowing us to reprint his 2010 tribute to Warren.

Download a PDF invitation to this event.

Past Award Recipients

Lifetime Contribution Award — Recommending Someone Living for the Award

Do you know someone that has made a long term and exceptional contribution to the mission of CDSS? Has this contribution benefited more than one geographical area or generation? Has he or she worked in conjunction with CDSS for more than twenty years? If the answer is "yes" to all of these, then you may know a future recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award (LCA).

Examples of a significant contribution include: increasing the quality of what we do by inspiration, instruction or excellent example; bringing what we do to new communities; expanding the repertoire of dance, music and/or song through scholarship or original composition; working behind the scenes or enabling others to make these contributions.

The timeline for recommendations has changed:

Nominations for 2016 must be received by March 20, 2015. Send your recommendations to or to Awards Committee chair Mary Devlin, If you prefer snail mail, send information to Mary at 2230 SW Sunset Drive, Portland, OR 97239.

Your recommendation must include the name, address, phone number and email address of the person you are recommending as well as your own name and full contact information. Recommendations must be for living persons.  Be sure to include one page highlighting why the person you are recommending deserves the award.  

Do not assume the Awards Committee knows the person you recommend or anything about how this person has contributed to CDSS’s mission. Your job is to write a detailed recommendation that will convince the Awards Committee to recommend your candidate to the CDSS Governing Board as the recipient of next year’s LCA.  

What information should an ideal recommendation include?

  • Your name and contact information
  • Name and contact information of the person you recommend
  • List of major events involving your candidate, describing the nature of your candidate’s involvement [Example: 1994, Program Director, Pinewoods Early Music Week]
  • List of organizations involving your candidate, describing the nature of your candidate’s involvement [Example: CDS Boston Centre, Board 2004-2010, secretary 2007-2010; NEFFA Board, 2001-2004; PCI Board, 2010-present]
  • List of candidate’s publications and/or recordings
  • Description of how your candidate’s work benefited more than one generation [Examples: X has taught dancing to children at Family Weeks and to seniors at Elderhostel events.  Y’s book of contra tunes has been in print for over 20 years; it is a standard in the contra dance community.]
  • Description of how your candidate’s work benefited more than one geographical area [Example: On moving from Berkeley, where he helped found the San Francisco English Country Dance, Z became involved with Boston’s morris and sword community, playing for teams throughout New England.]

We also need to know if you would be willing to ensure the organization of an award event, or to organize it yourself, if the person you recommend should receive the LCA for 2016. If you are not able to do it, please include the name(s) and contact info for people who would like to do the organizing. Award events are organized in conjunction with CDSS, working with Caroline Batson.

The Awards Committee will review recommendations in late March 2015 and submit our recommendation to the CDSS Governing Board for its decision. Thank you for providing detailed, thoughtful recommendations for us to review.

Posthumous Lifetime Contribution Award

CDSS has expanded its Lifetime Contribution Award to include the possibility of awarding it posthumously. It is intended to honor those who were deserving of and likely to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award (LCA) but who passed on before they could be honored. The Posthumous award will be given to honor the work done by such persons and to hold them up as exemplars of the attributes CDSS values. It is not intended as an annual award; there is no obligation to give the recognition every year and no more than one will be given in a calendar year.

Any CDSS member may make recommendations for this award and these may be sent to the Awards Committee at any time. By recommending a posthumous candidate those doing so commit to finding someone to be responsible for organizing appropriate recognition. Recognition could be an event or participation in an existing event, a named scholarship, or a dance, music, song or publication in honor of the person. Recognition will be planned in coordination with CDSS.

Criteria for a posthumous award are the same as for the regular Lifetime Contribution Award with one addition, and include:

  • candidate has been deceased for at least three but not more than six years;
  • candidate has made a longterm and exceptional contribution to the mission of CDSS; candidate’s work has benefited more than one geographical area and/or generation;
  • candidate has worked in conjunction with CDSS for more than twenty years.

A significant contribution may consist of:

  • increasing the quality of what we do by inspiration, instruction or excellent example;
  • bringing what we do to new communities;
  • expanding the repertoire of country dance, music and/or song, whether through scholarship or by original composition;
  • working behind the scenes, enabling others to make any of the contributions listed above (i.e., music or dance event organizing, sound production or programming).

The Posthumous award will begin in 2015 as a new initiative and part of the CDSS Centennial. This first Posthumous LCA recipient is Warren Argo.