In the early 80’s Kitty was invited to visit a class in a neighborhood school to perform and talk about music, so she borrowed a lap dulcimer and a banjo, figured out a couple of simple songs and spent an afternoon with the children having a great time. The teacher suggested Kitty pursue working with kids, especially as she was wanting to travel less and spend more time with her own son and daughter, and a new aspect of her musical career was born.
Kitty’s sense of humor, easy rapport with audiences and her natural storytelling abilities have made her a favorite on the elementary school, library and museum circuit. The retinue of instruments she uses in her family programs can include the banjo, guitar, mountain and hammered dulcimers and concertina, depending on the program.
In 1987 Michigan celebrated it’s 150th birthday and Kitty wrote a number of songs about the state’s history and heritage to present to the public. Called “Bunyan and Banjoes”, the collection of mostly original material became enormously popular, was turned into a very successful book and CD project (please see the CD’s Page for ordering info) and kept Kitty busy for a couple of years performing almost continuously. A spin-off of the Michigan program is “Lighthouses and Legends”, a broader, Great Lakes-themed presentation that is proving to be equally popular. For several years Kitty toured in the Michigan Great Outdoors Cultures Tour program, performing at campgrounds and state parks in the northern areas of the state. Both programs are adaptable for adult-only audiences and for some grade levels. For more information on these programs see below.
“Bunyan and Banjoes”
A journey through Michigan’s history led Kitty to write and discover songs about the “Mitten State”. The songs cover a wide range of subject matter; from making maple syrup to the logging and lumberjack era, voyageurs, the rivers and waterways of Michigan, the Mackinac Bridge, and more; most of the stories are the classic tales of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Many of the songs have become standard material in elementary music classes. There are versions of “Bunyan and Banjoes” for all elementary grades, adults-only and a mixed-age audience.
”Lighthouses and Legends”
The romance of the Big Five Lakes is inescapable; from the tales of the shipping era and haunted lighthouses to songs of the everyday sailors, fishermen and women who helped to settle the region, there is a charm and magic that permeates every aspect of the lakes. Material in this program can include the traditional song “Red Iron Ore”, contemporary songs such as ”The Great Lakes Song” and “Keewenaw Light”, several pieces written by Kitty for the program and assorted stories and poems that weave together the narrative and music of the show. “Lighthouses and Legends” is appropriate for adults and upper elementary, grades 3 – 6.
Comments from school staff, parents, kids, audience surveys and random notes:
”Exhilarating – refreshing. What more can I say?”
”Excellent and fun! Awesome! ”
”This was just the greatest. She was so wonderful and [has] such spirit.”
”Wonderful! Voice and songs are amazing and educational.”
”Very enjoyable – would highly recommend her to any program!”
”She did a good job of getting audience participation and was very professional.”
”Kitty Donohoe is a first rate entertainer with a great knowledge of Great Lakes history.”