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Music Mobile founder Ruth Pelham, Kevin McKrell, songwriter, are first inductees to area music awards hall of fame

Ruth Pelham

Music Mobile founder Ruth Pelham and Kevin McKrell, songwriter have been announced as the first inductees to The Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Awards Hall of Fame.

Both will be honored at the inaugural Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Awards, presented by The Collaborative magazine and Capital Records Live! 6 p.m. Sunday, April 14, at Proctors in Schenectady.

McKrell is recipient of The Eddies Artistic Lifetime Achievement Award; Pelham of The Eddies Lifetime Achievement Award for Music Education or Community Impact.

“This is really touching,” Pelham says. “It tickles me to the core. It’s a tremendous affirmation not only of my contribution to the arts and community building, but to the need for this kind of work and the power of its effectiveness to generate love.”

Hailed by the legendary Pete Seeger as “one of America’s great songwriters and an even better community organizer,” Pelham, with initial funding from the Albany City Arts Office, launched the Music Mobile on Memorial Day weekend in 1977, as a planned six-week summer program. Instead, The Music Mobile, a brightly-decorated van visiting neighborhoods around the city, became her life’s focus, bringing the joys of music, music-making and, most importantly, a sense of belonging to tens of thousands of children over nearly 40 years.

On the streets today, adults with beaming smiles approach “the Music Mobile lady” and spontaneously start singing, from memory, “come along, sing a song, it’s the Music Mobile.” Pelham has touched so many lives with the power of song.

She is also an internationally-recognized composer, with classics like “I Am a Woman,” “Turning of the World” and “The Activity Room”—all featured in the iconic Rise Up Singing songbook—being covered by Holly Near, Ronnie Gilbert, Guy Carawan, Bill Harley and others. Pelham’s original album releases include Collage, Under One Sky, Look to The People and Room for Us All.

“I don’t think of my work as music education,” she humbly says. “I think of it as community action and community impact, using music to teach all kinds of life lessons about getting along, about cooperation, about standing up for other people. My work has been to make music, and to have it be a gentle, but powerful force that fuels and holds and helps people be the very best that we can be.”

McKrell pioneered Celtic music in the region, beginning in 1979 with Donnybrook Fair.

In 1998, McKrell—who has three solo albums to his credit—formed a band under his own name, merging the Irish sensibility of Donnybrook with a steely, world class bluegrass edge. The McKrells toured harder than Donnybrook, bringing its music, with McKrell’s lusty vocals supported by hot string band picking, to Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and festivals and concert venues around the country. The band, in its current incarnation, many members on, released its eighth album, My Big Old Broken Heart, in 2018.

Tickets for The Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Awards, $20 advance/$25 door, are available at the Box Office at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady; by phone at 518-346-6204; and online at proctors.org.

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