Miss Thang: Donna McElroy

donna-lori2In the fall of 1991, Thomas Cain, who worked at BMI for many years, introduced me to Donna McElroy. From the moment I met her, I knew I had made a life long friend and fantastic writing partner. She loved bringing me beginnings of tunes that she needed chordal help with, and that’s where the magic began!

Donna and I played a Christmas concert together at the Fisk University Chapel in Nashville. Then, in 1992, we began a steady Friday night gig at the downtown Mere Bulles on 2nd Avenue. Donna sang, backed by Roger Spencer on bass, Chris Brown on drums, Jeff Coffin on sax, and me on piano. What a band! We played regularly at Mere Bulles for three years, performing a lot of standards as well as our original material. It was so nice to have a place to try out new things every week.

Then in 1995, Berklee School of Music in Boston offered Donna a position. I hated to see her go, but I knew she needed a change, and I believed this teaching experience would be amazing for her. And it has been. Donna is absolutely a master teacher and performer who cares deeply for her students.

In 2008, Donna recorded a CD, “Fly to Forever,” at the Nashville Jazz Workshop with her original trio and a few friends. That project gave us the opportunity to finally record nine of our original songs, along with a few standards, and it was an amazing experience. I loved every minute of working with Donna.

As my soul sister, music partner, and very dear friend for nearly 23 years, Donna has taught me many things, most importantly: know the lyric! Donna made me realize that I needed to know every lyric to every song I was playing. That one simple tip has made the biggest difference in my playing and in the way I currently teach. It changed my world. I am so thankful for this beautiful woman, and I look forward to writing more tunes, performing, and teaching with Donna in the near future.

I love you Donna Mac!!


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