The International Square Dance Magazine

Mike Seastrom

Thomas Bernhed
Special Recognition Award

The following presentation was given by Past Chairman of the Board, Barry Clasper, at this year’s CALLERLAB Convention in Mesa, Arizona. This award is a small “Thank you” to a man who has made a giant contribution to the square dance activity and to callers all over the world.

CALLERLAB bestows the Special Recognition Award in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the square dance activity. Today’s recipient most certainly fits the criteria.

I remember my first foray into using digital music. I had been booked to do my first overseas weekend in 1999 and I really didn’t want to lug records across the ocean. In those days the most practical option for a portable digital music player was the Sony Mini-Disc technology. It was small (too small if you had big fingers), but allowed hundreds of records to be stored in a very small space. Of course, it required you to spend hundreds of hours digitizing your vinyl records by playing them into the device in real time, and then setting track marks at appropriate loop points to permit infinite playback times.

Compare that to today’s world where we can buy our music in MP3 format, instantly download it to our laptop, where we can instantly play it and work with it. We can put our entire music collection on that laptop and carry it all with us everywhere we travel. That laptop also displays our singing call cue sheets, workshop notes, schedules, modules, get-out sheets, and many other things we might need when calling or preparing to call.

What enabled us to get from the Mini-Disc world of the late 1990’s to what we have today? Well, first there was a dramatic improvement in what laptops could do. My IBM ThinkPad 560Z (circa 1998) was a high end ultra-light machine. It weighed five pounds, had 96MB of RAM, a 1.5GB hard drive, and it was pretty expensive. After subtracting the hard drive space required for the operating system, utilities, and other data files, that size hard drive might be able to store a couple of hundred records.

Ten years later, typical hard drives were 200 times larger, and RAM and processing speeds had made similar improvements. Today a modest laptop brings more computing power and storage capacity than any caller is likely to need at a price-point within most budgets.

But what made laptops a practical option for square dance music was not really the advances in hardware. To be useful, programs were needed to play, catalog, search, and categorize the music. Typical generic music software was nowhere close to meeting caller requirements. This need spurred the creation of several square dance music players in the early to mid-2000s. But one program rose quickly to lead the pack: SqView.

SqView was developed by Thomas Bernhed, a caller in Sweden. Thomas worked in IT for Volvo, and decided to combine his programming expertise and calling background to develop a program aimed specifically at the needs of square dance callers. His program not only plays music, but allows for tempo and pitch changes, looping of music, recording of dances, keeping track of what music has been used, displaying cue sheets, lyrics, choreography, tip timing, and much more. He provided all this functionality as a free internet download, complete with documentation, and continues to provide technical support via email to this day. The original version runs on Windows computers and more recently Thomas released an Android version which makes it usable on tablets and smart phones.

SqView is now used by hundreds of callers throughout the world. If you look over a caller’s shoulder as he or she plays music, you are most likely looking at SqView. It has truly transformed the way square dance callers work. It enabled the full blossoming of digital music for square dance use.

Today when you buy a piece of square dance music, instead of receiving two tracks, which is all you could get on vinyl, you may well get half a dozen or more: high key, low key, with background vocals or without, with instrumental leads or not.

While SqView is not unique (there are other such programs available), it is the one that came to dominate the field. This happened because Thomas Bernhed provided a highly functional tool, freely distributed, well supported, and frequently enhanced. His generosity has persisted for many years and continues today as he maintains SqView to run on new versions of Windows and also adapts it for other platforms.

Thomas’s contribution to square dancing has been truly transformative and he did it with no thought for compensation or even recognition. Those of you who have the privilege of knowing Thomas personally will recognize that as typical of him.

I am proud to announce that Thomas Bernhed is the latest recipient of the CALLERLAB Special Recognition Award for outstanding contributions to the square dance activity.

Fun set to music!