About

August 27, 2020
This statement has been updated since its original publication.

Last week, we emailed you all with a statement of our support for the Black Lives Matter movement and some brief thoughts on how anti-racism work intersects with our own traditions and communities. We think it's most important to listen and learn from Black voices right now. We also want to remain accountable to our community, and encourage all of us to do this work together.

In the past week, many of you asked what CDSS is specifically doing to combat racism in our work. We agree that it’s important to share what we’re doing with you! We also acknowledge that we don’t have much practice at sharing about our work while we’re in the middle of doing it. More often than not, we like to complete a project and then tell you about it all at once. But anti-racism work is ongoing and complex. It's really important for us all to talk about the journey we are undertaking. We don't want to do this work alone, and progress will be greater if we work together, share what we are learning, and challenge each other along the way. That is how we move forward together.

Here's a look at some of our ongoing work to enact our core value of Inclusivity and combat racism:

  • In February of this year, the Board initiated development of an inclusivity statement for CDSS. Staff members researched inclusivity and equity statements from organizations similar to ours, began drafting, and solicited feedback from select members of our community who could provide a variety of perspectives. Right now, we are incorporating that feedback and settling on a final version that we will share with our wider community. Staff has established a team to develop plans for implementing this statement throughout our programs and operations.

  • In April, we had our first equity training session for the full Board and Staff, and we are committed to continuing with additional sessions.

  • We are amplifying the work of Black traditional music and dance artists on our Facebook page. Send us a message there; we’d love to share your favorite artists, too!

  • This week, we are creating a new inclusivity section of the Resource Portal. This section will include links to articles, podcasts, videos, and other resources about the intersection of race and traditional dance and song. We plan to have the section live next week and will send more info then! (This section will also include resources about different intersections: gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, etc.) In the meantime, you can submit a resource to be included.

  • Recognizing that true change must include the whole community, CDSS Community Grant funds can now be used for equity and anti-racism training for local dance organizer teams. Priority will be given to CDSS Affiliates. Moving forward, we will expand this funding to other capacity-building efforts.

  • We are owning our history. Cecil Sharp’s work teaching English country dance and documenting songs and dances from people in Appalachia (1916-1918) inspired a group of Americans to create the organization that later became CDSS. Sharp was a passionate student of English and Anglo-American folk traditions who traveled to white mountain communities and collected music with ties to his native England. Sharp’s racist and anglo-centric worldview caused him to ignore and exclude traditions, including Black traditions, that he deemed less valuable. These actions set a false narrative of single-influence traditions that many song collectors and folk dance historians later adopted without question, and that was later reinforced and legitimized during the folk and dance revivals.1 This is just one example of how the full history of traditional music and dance has been obscured for many years. We are committed to elevating resources that represent a broader, more accurate understanding of traditional dance, music, and song on this continent.

  • We are open to feedback. The vast majority of our staff, Board, and community is white. We will mess up. We will listen. We will keep going. Thank you for being here with us.

Here are ways you can further this work in our communities:

  1. Commit to learning more! Most of us know a very whitewashed history of the traditions we participate in. There are loads of things to read, watch, and listen to that can help us see a more full picture of the ongoing history of traditional dance and song in North America. A selection of these resources is below, and more will be listed in our Resource Portal ASAP. We’d love to include your favorite resources on these topics! Submit those here.

  2. Listen to Black, Brown, and Indigenous people singing and playing a variety of American folk traditions. Buy their music!

  3. For Organizers: Publicly state your support of anti-racism work. Share anti-racism resources with your community. Organize equity training sessions for your board and volunteers. And remember that if you apply for a CDSS grant, we’ll help you pay for it!

  4. For Participants: Get involved! Find out if you can join your local organization’s board, or volunteer in another way to help your community engage in this work. And talk about the things you’re learning with the folks you sing and dance with!

For further reading and listening:

  1. 8 Ways to Become a Decolonizing Agent, from Decolonizing the Music Room
  2. Community and Connection, Rhiannon Giddens’s Keynote Address at IBMA 2017
  3. Sing, Don’t Shout—An Alternative Approach, from Crys Matthews
  4. Addressing Racism as a Dance Community, from Portland Intown Contra Dance
  5. Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics, by Phil Jamison

1 Filene, Benjamin. Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music. University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

June 12, 2020

Last week, we emailed you all with a statement of our support for the Black Lives Matter movement and some brief thoughts on how anti-racism work intersects with our own traditions and communities. We think it's most important to listen and learn from Black voices right now. We also want to remain accountable to our community, and encourage all of us to do this work together.

In the past week, many of you asked what CDSS is specifically doing to combat racism in our work. We agree that it’s important to share what we’re doing with you! We also acknowledge that we don’t have much practice at sharing about our work while we’re in the middle of doing it. More often than not, we like to complete a project and then tell you about it all at once. But anti-racism work is ongoing and complex. It's really important for us all to talk about the journey we are undertaking. We don't want to do this work alone, and progress will be greater if we work together, share what we are learning, and challenge each other along the way. That is how we move forward together.

Here's a look at some of our ongoing work to enact our core value of Inclusivity and combat racism:

  • In February of this year, the Board initiated development of an inclusivity statement for CDSS. Staff members researched inclusivity and equity statements from organizations similar to ours, began drafting, and solicited feedback from select members of our community who could provide a variety of perspectives. Right now, we are incorporating that feedback and settling on a final version that we will share with our wider community. Staff has established a team to develop plans for implementing this statement throughout our programs and operations.

  • In April, we had our first equity training session for the full Board and Staff, and we are committed to continuing with additional sessions.

  • We are amplifying the work of Black traditional music and dance artists on our Facebook page. Send us a message there; we’d love to share your favorite artists, too!

  • This week, we are creating a new inclusivity section of the Resource Portal. This section will include links to articles, podcasts, videos, and other resources about the intersection of race and traditional dance and song. We plan to have the section live next week and will send more info then! (This section will also include resources about different intersections: gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, etc.) In the meantime, you can submit a resource to be included.

  • Recognizing that true change must include the whole community, CDSS Community Grant funds can now be used for equity and anti-racism training for local dance organizer teams. Priority will be given to CDSS Affiliates. Moving forward, we will expand this funding to other capacity-building efforts.

  • We are owning our history. Cecil Sharp’s work teaching English Country Dance and documenting songs and dances from people in Appalachia (1916-1918) inspired a group of Americans to create the organization that later became CDSS. Sharp was a passionate student of English and Anglo-American folk traditions who boldly ventured into white mountain communities and collected their music with great care and respect… and… Sharp’s racist and anglo-centric worldview impacted the way he told the world about his journeys, and meant that he missed the opportunity to fully understand and document the complex evolution of dance, music, and song on this continent. Additionally, his incomplete understanding set a false narrative that many song collectors and folk dance historians adopted without question, and that was later reinforced and legitimized during the folk revival.1 This is just one example of how the full history of traditional music and dance has been obscured for many years. We are committed to elevating resources that represent a broader, more accurate understanding of traditional dance, music, and song on this continent.

  • We are open to feedback. The vast majority of our staff, Board, and community is white. We will mess up. We will listen. We will keep going. Thank you for being here with us.

Here are ways you can further this work in our communities:

  1. Commit to learning more! Most of us know a very whitewashed history of the traditions we participate in. There are loads of things to read, watch, and listen to that can help us see a more full picture of the ongoing history of traditional dance and song in North America. A selection of these resources is below, and more will be listed in our Resource Portal ASAP. We’d love to include your favorite resources on these topics! Submit those here.

  2. Listen to Black, Brown, and Indigenous people singing and playing a variety of American folk traditions. Buy their music!

  3. For Organizers: Publicly state your support of anti-racism work. Share anti-racism resources with your community. Organize equity training sessions for your board and volunteers. And remember that if you apply for a CDSS grant, we’ll help you pay for it!

  4. For Participants: Get involved! Find out if you can join your local organization’s board, or volunteer in another way to help your community engage in this work. And talk about the things you’re learning with the folks you sing and dance with!

For further reading and listening:

  1. 8 Ways to Become a Decolonizing Agent, from Decolonizing the Music Room
  2. Community and Connection, Rhiannon Giddens’s Keynote Address at IBMA 2017
  3. Sing, Don’t Shout—An Alternative Approach, from Crys Matthews
  4. Addressing Racism as a Dance Community, from Portland Intown Contra Dance
  5. Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics, by Phil Jamison

1 Filene, Benjamin. Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music. University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

There are no open positions at this time. Please check back later.

Celebrating a year of joy and growth

For CDSS, 2015 was a year of extraordinary milestones.

CDSS 2015Annual cover

It was a year of celebration. One hundred years ago, Cecil Sharp met with supporters in New York to lay the groundwork for what would become the Country Dance and Song Society. To mark this milestone, CDSS embarked on an ambitious program of community residencies, workshops, parties, camps, and visits, joining members, donors, and friends across North America to share the joy and revelry.

It was a year of connection. We launched programs to bring traditional dance, music, and song to a wider audience. We collaborated with partners to enlarge our education and outreach footprint. We invested significantly in sending CDSS representatives to visit communities, participants, members, and donors in local and regional gatherings of educators and enthusiasts.

It was a year of gratitude. Thanks to your generosity and that of 900+ fellow donors, we successfully completed our $1M Spread the Joy Campaign. More donors contributed as part of the campaign, and with the widest range of gifts, than ever in CDSS’s history. As we approached the end of 2015 we received word that this compelling groundswell of support and our excellent Centennial programming had led to a transformational $1M gift that will set CDSS on the path to continued success into its next century.

It was a year of bold vision and renewed purpose. The momentum generated in our Centennial year places us in a position of organizational strength from which to envision and launch our next 100 years. Building on our successes in 2015, we’re overhauling our infrastructure and enhancing our services and resources, from camps, leadership training, grants, and scholarships to online references, insurance, and organizational support.

In 2015, the generous support of our donors and members helped us nurture, sustain, and connect such rich and diverse communities.


PROGRAMS

Empowering communities CDSS delivers inspiration, skill-building opportunities on Centennial Tour

For its hundredth year, CDSS celebrated its core values, including increasing visibility for traditional dance, music, and song, and empowering communities to grow and strengthen their commitment to these vital traditions. To that end, CDSS translated its Centennial message into action and, quite literally, spread the joy. Six communities across the continent received financial and organizational backing from CDSS to host 4-5-day residencies with highly skilled performers and teachers, holding intensive workshops and school visits by day and reveling joyously in large public dances, sings, jams, and parties by night. Empowering communities CDSS delivers inspiration, skill-building opportunities on Centennial Tour.

Read more about the Centennial Tour at cdss100.org/centennial-tour/


RESOURCES

Serving the needs of dancers, callers, musicians, and organizers

As dance organizers well know, staging successful events requires knowledge, expertise, and resources – much more than meets the eye to many participants. Whatever your needs – guidelines for financial management, group tax exemption, insurance procurement services – CDSS is here to support local leaders navigating the ins and outs of running series and events. In addition to its liability insurance and tax exemption offerings, CDSS curates and makes available an online library of resource materials for organizers seeking guidance on how to get started, solve problems, and strengthen their dance, music, and song scenes. Dedicated staff at CDSS also provide the invaluable resource of their time and expertise, routinely coaching community members on their most pressing needs, ranging from tips on how to get better rates on rental venues to advice on applying for grants.

"My support of CDSS is in large part rooted in the tangible benefits it provides to its Group Affiliates, such as federal tax exemption. Being able to access nonprofit status through CDSS was crucial for Fiddlekicks, my clogging group. Without that 501(c)(3) status, we wouldn’t have been able to apply for the grants we depend on."

~ Peggy Leiby, CDSS donor


EDUCATION

The Best of What CDSS Does

Education lies at the heart of the CDSS mission, both for the communities it serves and for the traditions it supports. By providing ongoing resources, services, and training to ensure strength and resilience, CDSS remains relevant and valuable to dance, music, and song communities and participants across North America. The Centennial Tour presented an extraordinary opportunity to deliver training and skill building to callers, musicians, and organizers in their communities. Even amidst so much wonderful activity, donors’ extraordinary support of the Centennial campaign allowed CDSS to supplement its education programming in 2015 by introducing a number of initiatives:

Dance Organizers’ Conference in Ottawa
As a follow up to our successful Southwest Regional Organizer’s Conference in 2014, CDSS partnered with arts organizations in southern Ontario and New England to convene Puttin’ On the Dance 2: Hands Across the Border. 85 dance organizers gathered for 3 days of workshops and exercises, led by 25 session leaders, designed to strengthen the skills and networks for those who sustain social dance traditions in their respective communities. CDSS provided staff and financial support to the event’s organizing committee.

Teacher Training Pilot Program
In 2015, CDSS piloted three teacher training workshops in Massachusetts, in collaboration with: • local music and classroom teachers in Amherst • program managers and music teachers at Kids4Harmony, an el Sistema-inspired music program funded by Berkshire Children and Families, a social services agency in Pittsfield • teachers, administrators, and parents at an elementary school in Great Barrington.

“CDSS is the catalyst and helping hand that makes so much possible!”

~ Emily Addison, POTD2 organizing committee chair

Preserving our Stories
CDSS launched The CDSS Story Project, documenting our traditions and the people who love them, as part of its Centennial Celebration. Throughout 2015, we gathered video, photos, and written stories that speak to who we were, where we danced, where we played music, and where we sang in 2015. Stories gathered from community members are deeply inspiring, and speak to the profound, life-changing effects of participation in the arts. They affirm the MISSION of CDSS, as well as the commitment the tellers have made to traditional dance, music, and song in their lives. These stories were grouped into our Community100 multimedia web experience, which also included:

  • Local Heroes (73 stories)
  • What We Believe (6)
  • Stories From Camp (100+)
  • Birthday Greetings (3,812 views)
  • Selfies with Cecil (20+)
  • Centennial Expressions


OUTREACH

Planting seeds for future growth CDSS Outreach programs are completely funded by donor support!

CDSS remains committed to supporting individual and group efforts to sustain and enrich traditional dance, music, and song communities across the continent. Thanks to donors’ generous support, in 2015 CDSS once again provided administrative, logistical, and financial support to those looking to create new opportunities and collaborations; those offering skills and resources to strengthen their own dance, music, and song communities; and others seeking to transform their operations and strengthen financial stability. We were also able to provide significant scholarship assistance to defray the cost of attendance at our camps.

“Without the scholarship from CDSS, I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of the extensive knowledge brought by the staff, would not have necessarily set aside the time to developing musical skills, and would have missed out on connecting with the like-minded and incredibly kind people I met.”

~ 2015 scholarship recipient

In 2015, CDSS awarded 87 scholarships totaling $38,581 and disbursed 26 outreach grants totaling $5,400 across 18 US states and Canadian territories.


FINANCIALS

Ensuring Sustainability for the Future Spread the Joy Centennial Campaign — Thank you for ensuring another 100 years of CDSS!

In 2015, our donors generously extended the momentum of our Centennial Campaign, generating more than $158,000 in gifts to support the work CDSS does on behalf of the traditional dance, music, and song communities in North America. Your philanthropy, your encouragement, and your confidence in CDSS invigorated us during a year of dizzying activity and challenging, gratifying work. Thanks to you, we were able to “spread joy” in a manner befitting the vibrancy of our traditions.

Historic Gift
Your generosity also resulted in the largest gift in our history. As our campaign came to a close, the Sage Foundation, associated with Sage Arts, observed the outpouring of support you gave us and determined we are an organization worthy of their investment. They awarded CDSS an unrestricted grant of $1,000,000 to continue our programs, services, and advocacy on your behalf — a transformative gift that simply would not have been made without your unwavering support.

What’s Next?
With this level of support, we are well-positioned to continue building CDSS for the 21st century. We are focused on reducing our reliance on income from camps, further diversifying our income, and investing in long-term sustainability with a robust cash reserve of $450,000. We are carrying this extraordinary energy into our next strategic planning process, where we will look for new ways to keep delivering on our promise to you: that we will keep working to ensure our traditions remain vibrant for another hundred years.

Thanks!


2015 GOVERNING BOARD

Officers:
David Millstone, President; Jenny Beer, Vice President; Craig Meltzner, Treasurer; Brooke Friendly, Secretary

At Large Members:
Jill Allen
Bev Bernbaum
Nancy Boyd
Martha Edwards
Mark Galipeau
Michael Hamilton
Lorraine Lee Hammond
Dorcas Hand
Donald Hughes
Carol Marsh
John Mayberry
Sharon McKinley
David Means
Pam Paulson
Doug Plummer
Nate Puffer
Diane Shaw
David Shewmaker
Natty Smith


2015 CDSS OFFICE

Rima Dael, Executive Director
Bob Blondin, Business Manager
Steve Howe, Director of Camp Programs
Pat MacPherson, Director of Education
Linda Henry, Outreach Manager
Nils Fredland, Centennial Tour Manager
Mary Wesley, Education Associate
Jeff Martell, Sales & Group Services Manager
Caroline Batson, Director of Communications
Robin Hayden, Director of Development
Christine Dadmun, Membership Administrator
Lynn Nichols, Webmaster
Anna Mach, Bookkeeper


2015 CDSS OFFICE INTERNS

Abigail Hobart
Rowan Lupton


PHOTO CREDITS

Molly Johnston, Doug Plummer, Natty Smith

DONOR PROFILE - Jim Morgan, 72, Pittsburgh, CDSS Centennial Campaign donor

Traditional dance has been a part of Jim Morgan’s life for more than 40 years. From his first dance experience in Baltimore in 1973, it has remained a presence in his life through a number of moves and life stages. After serving in a leadership role on his local board in Pittsburgh, Morgan continues to be active and influential in his community, teaching English dance for his local group. Morgan has benefitted personally from the resources CDSS provides, he said, explaining that the CDSS Bookstore, its newsletter, and its dance research publications have enriched his experiences over the decades. So when two other local leaders in Pittsburgh challenged others in 2015 with an ambitious fundraising target for the Centennial Campaign, Jim was moved to contribute. “I’ve seen over the years a lot of the benefits from the national organization, and I was confident that with a greater endowment they’d be able to do even more good things,” Morgan said. “It was a worthwhile cause."

     
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