Emmy-winning songwriter helps Merritt students hone reading, listening skills

Published 8:07 am Friday, March 12, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- With March being reading month and St. Patrick's Day drawing near, Brandywine's Merritt Elementary found a perfect guest to help celebrate both events.
Emmy award-winning songwriter Kitty Donohoe had students participating in her original brand of storytelling and doing an Irish jig in the same hour-long program on Thursday.
Donohoe integrates traditional folk music, familiar fairy tales and adds a food related twist to her "Edible Fairy Tales" program.
The interactive program involved Donohoe introducing the students to traditional folk instruments and leading her own renditions of some familiar fairy tales.
The reading-oriented program is one of many she performs at schools, libraries and museums. Some of her other program themes include Michigan history and the Great Lakes.
She received an Emmy for a song she wrote about the September 11 tragedy and has also written a book called "Bunyan and Banjoes," a collection of her original material about Michigan history and heritage.
Donohoe's programs aim to both entertain and educate.
She began Thursday's performance by bringing out a banjo and putting her own spin on the story of the Gingerbread Man.
Donohoe would play a tune on her banjo and have the students sing along with, "Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me I'm the gingerbread man."
For the next portion of the program, she brought out a dulcimer and asked if anyone knew what the instrument was called.
A young student from the audience yelled "A dulcimer, my daddy has one!"
She then led the students through a medley of familiar stories and songs including "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Lil' Jack Horner."
Next, Donohoe told a story about a boy named Billy Buckle who loved all foods that began with the letter B.
She explained Billy's favorite meal was a bologna sandwich on a bagel with barbecue sauce and a big bodacious banana shake. His parents tricked him into trying other foods by telling Billy that it was bacaroni and cheese and bizza with bepperoni.
The students laughed every time Donohoe would introduce another food that Billy tried.
Donohoe told the children she usually doesn't bring her next instrument to schools, but since St. Patrick's Day was next week, she decided it was a good opportunity for a traditional Irish folk song.
She introduced the hammer dulcimer and told all of the kids to stand up do an Irish jig as she played the tune.
The last instrument played by Donohoe was a traditional acoustic guitar. She led her own rendition of the Goldilocks story and had the students sing along with the chorus "Oh honey. Oh honey. Honey is good to eat."
Donohoe closed by encouraging the students to read.
The students filtered out of the gymnasium smiling and singing "Oh, honey."
Merritt Elementary principal Karen Weimer was very pleased with the program and said she received a lot of good feedback from the teachers.