Fall brings so many wonderful things along with it, and one real treasure is the annual conference of The Children’s Music Network. This year we’re meeting on beautiful Cape Cod for a rich weekend full of vibrant singing and the welcome connections of old and new friends. I have been an active member for many years and just wrote an article for the fall issue of our online journal,  Pass It On!, reflecting on the work I did as website manager to create online resources about peace in the aftermath of 9/11. Here is an excerpt of my article. To read the full piece, you can go to the Fall 2017 issue of Pass It On! at

by Barb Tilsen

My friend and colleague, Michael DelMain, wrote beautiful words for a young girl in his Montessori preschool classroom who kept hitting her friends. Michael told her, “We don’t use our hands for hitting here. We have gentle hands.” He went home that night and wrote the song “Gentle Hands” for her and sang it to her the next morning. It became a favorite song not only of his classroom, but of the whole school and two other associated schools as well.

I want to have gentle hands, strong hard-working hands
Hands that play the music of every instrument in the band
These are not pinching hands, never pushing hitting hands
These are hands with a loving touch, hands that understand
They can be building hands, they can be making hands
These are not for fighting, these are not breaking hands
I want to have gentle hands, celebrating creating hands
Let us all join hands together, remember we hold gentle hands
—“Gentle Hands” by Michael DelMain

I have loved this song from the first time I heard Michael and the children sing it. He and I recorded it and I introduced “Gentle Hands” at our Children’s Music Network (CMN) gatherings. It was one of the original Peace Resources Page listings on our CMN website in 2001. Many years later it was sung at a healing concert by Nancy Hershatter, Sally Rogers and other CMN members for the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School children after the horrific school shooting there in 2012. It is one example, among many, of the powerful impact we have in CMN—an enduring strength in the ways we hold songs and pass them along to share in meaningful moments with our children and each other.

We all find joyful fun and playful purpose in the broad range of songs we share too, covering every topic under the sun. But there are songs in particular, those born in times of a child’s deep need, songs that grow from tough, real-life moments with children, that I think are some of the most important ways CMN makes a difference in our world. I know there are many stories like this in CMN, of the myriad ways the songs we share weave into and through our experiences to touch the lives of children. These are powerful songs passed between us from one to the other, these songs of the heart that lie ready to rise whenever the need, great or small, calls out. It’s one of the things I have always truly treasured about CMN…

“Gentle Hands” is on Barb’s recording “Make a Circle Like the Sun”

To read the full article about the creation of the Peace Resources Pages, go to the Fall 2017 issue of Pass It On! at

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