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."

Easthampton, MA — After almost five years of visionary leadership at CDSS, Executive Director A. Rima Dael will be stepping down from her post to explore new challenges and opportunities in the nonprofit sector. Dael, who led CDSS through its groundbreaking centennial celebration while working to transform the organization into a strong and resilient 21st-century arts service nonprofit, will work with her staff and board in managing the transition through February 2017.

“I am so very proud of what we have accomplished together,” Dael said in announcing her departure. “Today I can say that we have a much stronger organization than when I arrived. CDSS is an organization poised for tremendous growth, and it is a recognized champion for traditional dance, music, and song communities in North America. I will watch with much excitement and anticipation as CDSS moves forward.”

In sharing the news of Dael’s departure, Board President David Millstone lauded the contributions she has made throughout her tenure. Dael’s leadership, he said, will have a lasting impact on both the work CDSS does and its organizational health. “Rima has brought significant positive changes to CDSS,” he said. “Under her leadership since 2012, we have been through a celebration of the CDSS Centennial, including raising a significant sum through the Spread the Joy campaign, and our office staff operates at a higher level of professionalism.”

An educator and longtime nonprofit management professional, Dael brought her 20 years of experience in organizational development, fundraising and board governance to the executive director role at CDSS. Dael shared, “My love of this community and our dance, music & song continues. While I am stepping down from my post, I am not stepping away from our community. I will continue to see folks on the dance floor and at camp.”

Millstone said Dael’s departure, though unexpected, comes at an auspicious time for the organization. The 2015 Spread the Joy Campaign generated a record amount of support from members and other donors, including a $1 million gift from the Sage Arts Foundation— the largest in CDSS history. On the heels of this success, the board will begin a strategic visioning process to chart a course for the organization’s future that will continue through the upcoming search process for the next executive director.
CDSS has impaneled a transition committee to manage the upcoming transition and will work with Third Sector New England, who assisted CDSS in its last executive transition. The committee will work to identify an interim executive director while mounting a full nationwide search for its next leader. “Our current board is a strong one, with engaged members and a committee structure that functions well,” Millstone said.

About CDSS: In 1915 Cecil J. Sharp, the English musicologist and collector of folk songs, traveled to North America. Sharp had founded the English Folk Dance Society (EFDS) in London in 1911, and four years later he helped establish several American branches of EFDS. From those American groups evolved the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS), one of the oldest folk organizations in North America. CDSS today is an education and arts service nonprofit that promotes participatory dance, music and song rooted in both English and North American culture. These include contra, square and English country dance, morris, sword and garland dance, English and American clogging, traditional songs, and the music which accompanies these dance and song traditions. We advocate strongly for their vitality and sustainability by offering artistic, educational and organizational support to their participants. CDSS has over 3,000 members and 325 affiliate groups across the U.S., Canada, and 15 other countries. Its headquarters is in Easthampton, Mass

The CDSS Governing Board announces A. Rima Dael's intention to step down from her role as Executive Director. Rima has not accepted a new position, and she indicated to the board that she wants to explore new opportunities with their full knowledge and support. Rima feels that now is the best time to begin the process of passing the reins to a new executive director. As an organization, CDSS is at a moment of great potential for positive transformation. The upcoming strategic visioning process is a moment of great opportunity: not only to imagine how CDSS should continue to evolve, but also to determine what kind of leader would be most effective in realizing that new vision. 

Rima felt it was in the organization’s best interests to create a space for that dialogue with the new executive director and board through the current strategic direction work. The board’s transition committee has begun the process of carefully sketching out a timeline and structured process for the transition. The members of the Transition Committee include: Nancy Boyd, Nancy Barbour, Katy German, Debbie Jackson (advisory capacity), Dorcas Hand, David Millstone (ex officio), Pam Paulson, David Shewmaker, Robin Hayden (representing the CDSS staff), and Doug Plummer, Chair. 

We will continue to share our progress with this work here on this webpage. Please email Doug Plummer, Chair of the Transition Committee with any questions, 2doug@dougplummer.com.

We thank Rima for her passion and hard work and wish her well with her future endeavors.

David Millstone
President, Country Dance and Song Society

 

Letter from A. Rima Dael

Rima Dael headshotDear Friends, Members and the CDSS Community,

My five years at CDSS have been a time of great excitement and growth. I have cherished my time with you. Today, it is with a heavy heart that I share the following decision: I am stepping down from my Executive Director role to seek opportunities that better fit the needs of my family. I chose to let the Board know my decision before securing another job so that I could work with them to plan my exit and to help ensure a smooth transition.

I am so very proud of what we have accomplished together through the Centennial celebration and the Spread the Joy Campaign. CDSS is an organization poised for tremendous growth. We are becoming recognized as a champion for traditional dance, music and song communities in North America, and I will watch with much excitement and anticipation as CDSS moves forward.

I will stay on until an interim Executive Director is installed but no later than February 2017. After almost five years, I move on with a sense of enormous gratitude to all of you who have worked so hard to build CDSS into an adaptive and resilient organization. I am working with board members and staff as we begin the transition process and want to do what is best for CDSS in every way possible during this time. Toward those goals, CDSS has created an Executive Transition Committee, chaired by Doug Plummer. Please direct questions regarding the transition to him at 2doug@dougplummer.com. CDSS will update this page with more information over the coming weeks to share news of the transition.

It will be difficult to leave, and this is not a full good-bye, merely “I’ll see you on the dance floor and at Camp.” Again, my deep affection to all of you and my gratitude for having the opportunity to do the work of building community through dance, music and song.  

Yours in dance, music and song,

Rima

 

Read the full press release.

Dear friends of CDSS,

The CDSS staff has posted a document that provides additional information and answers some of the questions that have been raised this past week about the announced changes in CDSS camps. I apologize in advance for the length of my comments below; I haven't found a way of saying this more concisely.

Camp has been a central focus of CDSS throughout much of the organization's history, and I think it worth putting changes in perspective. Back in the day, one could say that for many members camp was CDSS. And "Camp" meant Pinewoods; it was the sole venue. Through the 1960s, Pinewoods was the one place where people danced morris, under the watchful eye of May Gadd, Cecil Sharp's chosen representative.

Over the years, things changed. Morris dancers had the temerity to form their own teams (gasp!). A new phenomenon called contra dancing started spreading out from its New England roots, and CDSS invited contra callers to Pinewoods. (It's worth noting that this decision and the style of dancing itself ruffled the feathers of some stalwart CDSS members.) In time, Dance Week I and Dance Week II were reshaped into the current menu of offerings. Pinewoods weeks for families filled, and CDSS created new camps in West Virginia and New Hampshire, in the same way that we now have an active task group working to create a camp of some sort in the Midwest. In short, CDSS has a long history of adapting its camp offerings to meet changing needs.

Camp, broadly considered, has been a topic of lengthy discussions at the Board's recent Executive Committee meetings in Iowa (November, 2013), Pittsburgh (February, 2014), and at the full Board's meeting in April of 2014. By "lengthy," I mean "lasting many hours," and "camp" as a topic includes many complex and interrelated aspects. One very specific and unfortunate fact has been clear: enrollment at our Pinewoods camps has been dropping, first gradually and then dramatically this year. Having adopted a budget for 2014, the Board subsequently felt the need to adopt revised budgets on two subsequent occasions to take projected shortfalls into account. The Board is, after all, charged with the fiduciary responsibility of keeping the organization financially stable, and it is a responsibility that Board members take seriously.

Keep in mind, please, that CDSS, like other program providers at camps, has to guarantee payment for a specified minimum number of beds. If enrollment is low, we have to pay for that minimum, even if our numbers fall below. This year, as the Board looked at projected enrollments for the summer, it appeared that four weeks would fall below those minimums, a huge financial hit for our organization.

At the annual meeting in April, among the questions raised was whether, indeed, CDSS should run camps. After all, there are numerous weekends throughout the country and even some weeklong camps. The strong feeling of the Board was that, yes, camp programs are a vital part of what we do as an organization and we need to continue to offer them. At the same time, we need camp programs that are solvent.

In the face of declining enrollments, something had to be done. We tried to see if there was flexibility with Pinewoods, and proposed several ideas that would have reduced our financial risk. The manager and Board of PCI, which operates the camp, understandably did not agree with our proposals. After all, PCI, as a non-profit organization in its own right, has its own finances to consider. So the decision was made to consolidate our seven weeks at Pinewoods to six contiguous weeks at the same time as we start a partnership with Revels to open a new camp at Ogontz.

Some have said that CDSS should have done more to consult with its members. I'd say that this is what we do consistently. We have an unusually large Governing Board, 23 members from throughout the US and Canada. In addition to geographic spread, members of the Board are passionate about different activities, whether that be English country dance, contras, rapper or longsword, morris dance, songs, early music, squares, and much more. Staff members share those interests, and in the last year Steve Howe has been working closely with a group of advisors specifically selected to look at issues related to camp. Since she joined CDSS in 2012, Rima alone has talked with hundreds of members, at camp or in conversations elsewhere. We have results from three separate membership surveys. We talk to communities whenever we have a traveling meeting of the Executive Committee—next up, Oklahoma City and then Louisville. In short, we are continually talking to people and sharing what we learn.

On a personal level, English & American Week has rich meaning for me; it was at that camp, in 1987, when I fell in love with English country dance. Friends had been telling me, "Try it! You'll like it!" As a hard-core contra dancer, I had tried it, on several occasions, and I didn't like it. But that week, surrounded by folks who liked both styles, danced both well, and taught patiently, immersed in the magic of the music and the place... that week changed my life. Am I sad to see it go? Of course. For that matter, I'd be sad to see any of our programs disappear, but something needed to change and this decision was the one that seemed to make the best sense.

One more story: At Campers' Week some years ago, the program director dared to suggest that the group consider changing the Pied Piper song. Talk about an uproar! You'd think that the proposal was to eliminate swimming in Long Pond. Long-time campers, chief among them the teens and the early 20-somethings, were vocal in their opposition to any such change.

I'm not suggesting that this is a comparable issue, but it's clear that CDSS members care deeply about maintaining the experiences that have meant a great deal to them. As I gently remove some of the barbs that have been hurled our way, and take solace in the calm words of encouragement, I am happy that so many care about these rich traditions. With the continued support of our thousands of members, I look forward to positive steps that will keep CDSS able to offer vibrant programs into the future.

As we move into our Centennial year in 2015, I'm eager to see what camp programs will draw my attention. I can easily imagine a strong English dance component at American Week, or vice versa. For that matter, my wife and I had a wonderful time at Harmony of Song & Dance Week in 2013 and we delighted this year in taking two grandsons with us to Ogontz. I have no doubt that our program directors will put together terrific programs with top-notch talent, and I look forward to sharing music, dance and song with many of you at one or more of next summer's programs.

~ David Millstone, CDSS President

 

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What are your core beliefs?
Where do you see yourself today?
Where can I find the organizational finances?
What does it cost to run a week of camp?
How much do you make from camp?
Why go from seven to six weeks of camp at Pinewoods?
What other options were considered?
Why cut English & American (E&A) week at Pinewoods instead of another week?
I've only been to E&A, where can I go now to get that programming?
Why is Campers' Week being moved to the end of the summer?
Is this schedule written in stone?
Who made this decision?
What is your strategic direction?
How do you determine your strategic priorities?
Where do I send questions or comments?

Beginning in 2015, our Pinewoods season will not include English & American Dance Week. The announcement, made on August 18, has raised several questions from members and friends about that change, as well as the Campers’ Week date, and about CDSS policies in general. We are very sorry that how we have communicated programming decisions has caused anger and hurt feelings. It was not our intent to do so and we apologize. We hope the newly posted FAQs will answer your questions, clear up some misinformation,and give you an understanding of where CDSS is headed and why the decision about CDSS Camps was made.

Additional information is in the letter from CDSS President David Millstone and in CDSS: Strategic Direction 2014 - 2017. My August 13, 2014, message about changes to our camp programs is here and Steve Howe's August 18, 2014, message is here.

Our thanks to everyone who have expressed their support and concerns. If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to ask: office@cdss.org or rima@cdss.org.

Rima Dael, Executive Director
Country Dance and Song Society, 8/23/14

Today, CDSS’s value and strength as a national arts and education organization is to be of service to dance, music, and song communities and participants across North America. We are committed to providing the resources, services, and training that ensure strong, resilient communities. Within the nonprofit arts and education sector, we communicate the value of these traditions, steward their history, and advocate for their continuity for the next 100 years and beyond. Our mission statement can be found here.

WHAT ARE YOUR CORE BELIEFS?

We believe participatory arts change lives. We believe, and have directly experienced, that English and North American traditional dance, music, and song spread joy and build community — in other words, change lives. We observe that this life-changing experience is done with other people. Therefore, the work of CDSS is to harness our resources to ensure the continuity and preservation of resilient communities which, while spreading the joy of music, song, and dance, have good problem-solving ability, sturdy infrastructure, and successful internal and external communications. At the same time, CDSS itself can be a successful “resilient community” and learning organization, with shared Board and staff priorities, organizational effectiveness, and good governance.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF TODAY?

CDSS finds itself at a crossroads with some changes afoot. Our current reality is that we have built CDSS operations to be reliant on income from CDSS Camps for cash flow and to support revenue targets for our budget from camp fees and fundraising dollars. This is not a bad thing; this is just how CDSS has existed. The market for Camp has changed. We, therefore, need to change. The weeklong camp product that we have developed at three locations, totaling nine weeklong sessions, may no longer fit the dance weekend/dance week marketplace due to increased competition, or changes in society based on generational and economic shifts. So we will be making changes to Camp to be sure we have the weeks that can be filled, and that can also sustain our operations.

Our current business model is stated here
Who we are today is captured in the video, “CDSS — An Introduction”

WHERE CAN I FIND THE ORGANIZATIONAL FINANCES?

CDSS Annual Report 2014
MA Public Charities Annual Filing Website: http://www.charities.ago.state.ma.us/
Annual IRS Form 990 available through Guidestar: http://www.guidestar.org

(NOTE: You may access our federal filing on the Guidestar website using our EIN #04-3031125 or our name full name, Country Dance and Song Society, Inc. Make sure you look for the organization in Easthampton, MA, since the CDSS affiliates whose federal tax exemption is through us also are called Country Dance and Song Society in addition to their own name. Using the EIN may get you to the correct filing more quickly.)

WHAT DOES IT COST TO RUN A WEEK OF CAMP?

Pinewoods:
Average direct cost for a week is approximately $60,000 - $65,000.
All program providers are required to meet a weekly minimum of 115 occupants per week. Capacity for the week is 145 people.

Ogontz:
Average direct cost for a week is approximately $77,000 - $82,000.
CDSS is required to guarantee a number of campers by contract and we have up to a week before our start date to change that number. Capacity for the week is 170 people.

Timber Ridge:
Average direct cost for a week is approximately $89,000 to $93,000.
We must guarantee a weekly minimum of 100 campers. Capacity for the week is 215 people.

Camp scholarship information is here

HOW MUCH DO YOU MAKE FROM CAMP?

For weeks that are well attended in a given year, we can make $10,000 to $30,000 after direct expenses. This earned income helps fund CDSS operations as well as other programs and services. For some weeks, we only break even, and for weeks that are undersubscribed, we lose money. Camp registrations vary by week and by year.

WHY GO FROM SEVEN TO SIX WEEKS OF CAMP AT PINEWOODS?

CDSS has been losing registration numbers for several years. In 1988, CDSS had 2 empty beds at our 7 weeks at Pinewoods and the waiting lists were long at several weeks, particularly English & American (E&A) and Family Week. In 1990, we started one of each at Buffalo Gap in WV, and in 1999 we began another Family Week at Ogontz in NH. Since then, registration at our adult Pinewoods weeks has either slowly decreased or bounced between full and significantly less than full. In 2013 we had more than a week's worth of empty beds and this year’s early indications were that we probably were going to get fewer people than we had last year. It was time to take drastic action. The goal is not to remove a week but to reduce the number of empty beds.

WHAT OTHER OPTIONS WERE CONSIDERED?

By May of this year, we were faced with the financial reality of having 75 fewer people at camp than we had in 2013, based on the enrollment to date and supported by historical data of previous years. The impact to our operational and camp budget was significant. With the support of the Board and Finance Committee, we revised the CDSS budget twice and managed our organizational finances by making deep cuts to our operations to ensure we could sustain our annual programs. We also asked to renegotiate our rates and weekly camper minimums with Pinewoods Camp, but were unable to do so. Disappointed as we were, we respect and understand their thinking; just as we are, the PCI management and the PCI Board are facing financial challenges to keep their nonprofit organization healthy. PCI and CDSS have strengthened our resolve to remain committed to each other to ensure full enrollment at CDSS weeks at Pinewoods. Unused beds at camp hurt both CDSS and Pinewoods.

WHY CUT ENGLISH & AMERICAN WEEK (E&A) AT PINEWOODS INSTEAD OF ANOTHER WEEK?

Each of our programs has its own character and core constituency. Certainly some are more similar than others, but they are not and never have been interchangeable. It is also true that there are a number of people who have made a choice each year, based on staffing, on program, on dates, and on the choices of their friends, etc., and attend one or another of the weeks. The highest crossover has been between English Week and English & American Week, but other adult weeks also share semi-regulars and we do get some migration between the family programs and the adult programs. While it is true that CDSS is one of a few places that strongly values both English country dance and American contras and squares and has offered mixed programs, the recent decision was made based on the theory that E&A was the program we were most able to cover with our other weeks. There will be, as there have always been, programmatic changes from year to year as we constantly work to keep the programs fresh and lively.

I’VE ONLY BEEN TO E&A, WHERE CAN I GO NOW TO GET THAT PROGRAMMING?

Though social dance has been quite equally represented at the evening dances at E&A Week, some years offered more of this and little or none of that among the daily offerings. Which one of our Pinewoods programs might best suit your desires will depend on your preferences and the specific offerings of a specific year. If one hour a day of contras and squares will satisfy that desire, try English Dance Week, or American Dance & Music Week if one hour of English will keep you going. Please do not assume that the quality of the teaching, music, or dancing will disappoint; there has been a very lively English dance on one day the last several years of American Week, at the demand of the campers. Harmony of Song & Dance has a much larger song curriculum than E&A has had, but it has included lively and good dancing of both genres and has offered morris dance as well. You should also consider the program at Timber Ridge which has both a family as well as an adult program. There are many social dance class offerings there, populated by many enthusiastic dancers. We think we have a program that you will enjoy.

WHY IS CAMPERS' WEEK BEING MOVED TO THE LAST WEEK OF THE SUMMER?

Campers' Week, in 2015, will be at the same dates, in relation to Labor Day, that it has occupied since 2002, with the exception of 2003 and 2005 when it was earlier in the summer. In 2014, Labor Day is September 1, the earliest possible; in 2015 Labor Day is September 7, the latest possible. Campers' Week was started in 1981 in, as the announcement stated, "the extra week donated by the calendar before Labor Day." By 1994, enough schools had advanced their starting date to before Labor Day that the week was being seriously affected and the decision was made to rearrange the schedule and move Campers' Week earlier. From that day CDSS has not left any one program in the week before Labor Day for more than two, and more recently, one year at a time. Each of our adult programs, except Early Music Week, has been scheduled in that time. (Early Music Week, instead, has moved to late June in the years that Labor Day is September 1 or 2.) Almost every time that a program moved to the last (or the early) week, it lost attendance. Recently, weeks have not regained attendance when they move back to early August.

The current plan is that CDSS will have the six weeks that end on the last Saturday before August 31.

IS THIS SCHEDULE WRITTEN IN STONE?

Yes, but the same stone the last schedule was written in. CDSS will continue to look at how things are going, to receive feedback from members, from campers, and from prospective campers, from competitors and from collaborators. And sooner or later, more change will be necessary. Some changes will bring back earlier ways of doing things, while others will move us further down new paths.

WHO MADE THIS DECISION?

CDSS made this decision. The Board, as a whole and through its committees, assessed the financial situation and risks it was willing to take, and agreed that keeping the exact programs and number of programs was not a priority over protecting the organization from the financial difficulties that reduced attendance and empty beds bring. The Executive Director, Rima Dael, consulted with Staff, including Steve Howe, Director of Programs, who assembled an advisory committee to help. Steve and the committee had conversations, both formal and informal, with many other individuals. Steve then recommended the specific course of action, the Executive Director approved it, and a plan was made. The list of board members is available here.The Camp advisory committee is Karen Axelrod, Gaye Fifer, Nils Fredland, Lisa Greenleaf, Pat MacPherson, and Sarah Pilzer.

HERE IS THE TIMELINE OF DISCUSSIONS:

  • April 2014: Decision by the Board at the Annual Meeting to consolidate programs at Pinewoods and include options of programming at other locations. Board decides that programming decisions will be made by Rima and the Staff.
  • May 2014: The Board received report from Rima on current thinking and financial implications for CDSS for the changes that will be made. (Conversations and data analysis continues.)
  • June 2014: The Board receives report from Rima on possible dates for Camp in 2015 and more programming thoughts and additional financial implications. (Conversations on camp continue with Board, advisors and members.)
  • July 2, 2014: Rima met with Warren Anderson and Judy Savage, president and manager of Pinewoods Camp (PCI), to discuss changes, ask about potential rate changes and date possibilities for Camp 2015. CDSS received support from PCI on consolidating our programs into six weeks. Rates for 2015 will be the same as 2014. PCI and CDSS committed to full enrollment at all weeks at Pinewoods. PCI confirms generous pledge to CDSS Centennial–Spread the Joy campaign.
  • July 10, 2014: Phone conference with Rima and Board discussing PCI meeting outcome and getting input on programmatic choices to be made.
  • July 29, 2014: Meeting with Camp Advisory Group on vetting program options for 2015 based on Board conversation on July 10 and other input from program directors and members.
  • Week of August 8, 2014: At Ogontz, meetings with Revels North and Revels Inc. on programming possibilities for CDSS/Revels Week 2015.
  • Week of August 8, 2014: Rima discusses with Steve internal deadlines for program needs for Camp 2015 and decisions for 2015 are made.
  • August 11, 12014 Roll out plans for communicating to Camp 2015 with broader community.

The communications plan with community:

  • August 13, 2014: E-blast from Rima on changes for Camp 2015.
  • August 14, 2014: Steve communicate with Program Directors about 2015
  • August 15, 2014: Shawn Brenneman (E&A’s program director this year) and Steve communicate with E&A campers before the broader community e-blast on Monday
  • August 18, 2014: E-blast from Steve on the Camp 2015 dates

WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGIC DIRECTION?

Our core programs and services of camps, group insurance, 501(c) 3 group exemption, conferences, publications, resources (online and in print), the CDSS Bookstore, grants, and scholarships will continue, as will our archives and library at the University of New Hampshire. There may be changes in how we deliver these programs and services as the market and the needs of our members and communities change. The six goals articulated by the Board and community through the 2011-2012 executive transition process continue to be the broad work goals that guide our strategic focus:

  • Build wider awareness of, and participation in, our kinds of music and dance
  • Become a central reference hub, online and offline
  • Become a conversation hub for conversations and information sharing online and offline
  • Support local and regional initiatives to increase participation, and bolster our overall North American presence
  • Produce great summer camps
  • Encourage interaction among a wide network of dance and music communities

HOW DO YOU DETERMINE YOUR STRATEGIC PRIORITIES?

In determining the direction of our programs and services, the Executive Director and Staff took the six directives and looked at the community and membership survey results from 2005, 2008, and 2011. In her first summer with CDSS in 2012, Rima talked to 140 different campers and program directors at our nine weeks of camp. CDSS also spoke to the National Endowment for the Arts, Americans for the Arts, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife, and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Since 2012, CDSS had conversations with many more campers, donors, Board members, sister organizations (such as John C Campbell, Berea, staff from Ashokan, Maine Fiddle Camp, BACDS, Boston Center, etc.) and we have compiled what we’ve learned from our traveling Executive Committee meetings across North America. There were also the plans from the Centennial Task Groups that each had reports to add to our direction. Staff synthesized these ideas and added the visioning activities from the Executive Transition Committee, Staff meetings and Board meetings. The sum of these conversations became the basis of the strategic direction discussions with the Board and the strategic direction adopted by the Board on November 2013.

The strategic direction document is available here.

WHERE DO I SEND QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS?

Please email office@cdss.org. Or you may contact CDSS Executive Director, Rima Dael directly at rima@cdss.org.

Thank you.

A NATIONAL ARTS AND EDUCATION ORGANIZATION

We believe that participatory arts change lives. For nearly 100 years we have been spreading joy and building community through dance, music, and song with its roots in English and North American traditions. CDSS is the leading national arts and education organization supporting these traditions. Our membership of over 3,000 individuals and families and 300 affiliate groups spans 48 states, 9 Canadian provinces, and 15 other countries. Our programs, services and resources are available to member and non-member participants in North America and beyond.

Numerous ongoing series and events are well-run by community volunteers and CDSS affiliates at the local level, across North America. In addition to supporting this work CDSS, as a national arts organization, is able to concentrate on big picture needs and trends, serve as a centralized hub for resources, support, and information services where they are needed, connect dance/music and song communities to one another and to CDSS, and advocate for the vitality and sustainability of traditional dance, music, and song far into the future. As an education organization, CDSS will continue to provide skill building opportunities in dance, music and song at our nine week-long camps and continue to support educational opportunities for dancers, callers, musicians, singers, organizers and teachers.

The CDSS Centennial in 2015 presents a special opportunity to capture the attention of the dance and song community and the broader arts and education community.

Our objectives are to:

  • raise the visibility of traditional dance, music, and song and communicate their intrinsic value in society
    promote and advocate for musicians, singers, dancers, dance and song leaders who teach and perform the
    traditional arts we are preserving
  • strengthen and connect dance, music, and song communities in North America
  • strengthen CDSS's role in the arts and education sector
  • raise money to support these initiatives and our organizational mission

We will use the CDSS Centennial in 2015 to communicate our vision of CDSS as a responsive, forward-looking, and effective arts and education organization. The Centennial Spread the Joy campaign will raise funds to accomplish these goals and create a solid financial foundation for our next 100 years.

STRATEGIC PRIORITIES 2014 – 2017

Raise the Visibility of Traditional Dance, Music, and Song

  • expand and improve online resources
  • effectively drive traffic to our website
  • create ways to connect our 300+ affiliate groups in order to facilitate and support their work
  • seek strategic partnerships with folk and traditional dance, music, and song organizations
  • seek strategic partnerships with arts and education organizations with similar missions
  • connect with state cultural councils on behalf of our members, affiliates, and related communities
  • join the national conversation in the arts and education field
  • actively publicize our traditional arts through a wide array of media channels
  • amplify our message with tools that help local organizers, musicians, dance and song leaders promote their own activities


Strengthen and Connect Dance, Music and Song Communities

  • connect communities and our affiliates to each other, and organizers to resources, through conferences, forums, community stories, communal sharing of best practices and resources
  • facilitate multi-directional communication through social media
  • create a better online community for our members through the CDSS website
  • using CDSS as a hub, connect our members and non-members to other resources for dance, music and song
  • find more opportunities to connect in local and regional community gatherings

Improve and Expand Resources

1. Education Resources

  • create skill-building opportunities for organizers, dance and song leaders, musicians, and sound operators through the Centennial Tour
  • expand our menu of mini-courses at our camps
  • expand leadership training using our conference model
  • create an effective, easy-to-use mentorship program
  • create new resources for the contra caller community, as guided by the Contra Task Group Survey 2013
  • offer online courses with Antioch University of New England
  • offer continuing education credits for teachers
  • create toolkits and resources for K-12 teachers and homeschoolers on how to use the traditional arts in their classrooms
  • record, preserve, and archive the memories of our oldest practitioners; record, preserve and archive the history of our arts in North America
  • improve access to our library and archives at the University of New Hampshire


2. Services for Affiliates and Members

  • online members' Directory
  • non-profit consulting
  • logistical advice
  • skill-building opportunities for organizers, dance and song leaders, and musicians
  • continually evaluate member services and expand where possible and in response to the needs of our members and affiliates
  • enable online networking of affiliates through the CDSS Website
  • improve access to our library and archives at UNH


3. Outreach for Affiliates and Members

  • grants/matching grants
  • scholarships
  • fiscal agency support
  • conferences

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the cover image below for a flipbook of the 2014 Annual Report. If you prefer, there's a link on the left hand side of the flipbook page which lets you download the report as a PDF, or you may click here to download it.

2014 annual report cover

ADDITIONAL FINANCIAL INFORMATION AND REPORTS

Comparative Statement of Financial Position

Comparative Statement of Activities

2014 Donor List

Spread the Joy Donors List

CDSS listing on Guidestar

MA Public Charities Annual Filing (search on Country Dance and Song Society)

The Heart of CDSS: Our Education Department

     
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