Mary Ann O'Dougherty Remembered

To those that were fortunate enough to know her, this shining personification of light and laughter, of melody and marvel, of curiosity and of caring, needs no introduction. However, if you are perhaps a brand new addition to the IPR community I would like to take a moment to acquaint you with one of the most amazing people to ever walk our halls and inspire our students.

Mary Ann O’Dougherty was born on Halloween, October 31, 1953, and grew up in South Minneapolis. She spent her early years developing her skills as a singer and musician, taking piano lessons as a child and performing in high school musicals and talent shows. She attended Regina High School and earned a BA in Music Education at the University of Minnesota. After graduating from the U in 1975, Mary Ann’s passion and drive for life launched her global travels to more than 30 countries, where she studied languages and performed. After spending time in the Middle East, Europe, and South America, she settled in Brazil for five years. There her love of food and singing intersected in a jazz nightclub she owned called Mandala. In the mid-1980s she returned to the Twin Cities, and while working in local fine restaurants joined “The Consort”, one of the first bands to bring “world music” to the Twin Cities. Mary Ann’s band, “Mandala”, highlighted her roots in Brazilian music and native-like fluency in Portuguese, her beautiful alto voice and incredible stage presence that captured the hearts of thousands. From in the mid-1980s onward Mary Ann used her true gift of teaching that combined her love of singing, culture, art and music. She created an artist-in-residence curriculum that was offered in local and statewide elementary schools. In 1991 she started teaching music for the St. Paul Public Schools, first at Cherokee Heights Elementary and later at Eastern Heights Elementary. She completed a Masters Degree at the University of Minnesota. Mary Ann began teaching at the Institute of Production and Recording in Minneapolis in 2005.  Mary Ann had a rare capacity to connect deeply with people. All who knew her will remember her open, genuine, buoyant spirit, intensity and infectious vitality. She loved to hear everyone’s stories and tell her own. She was an avid chef and talented party giver, was passionate about her close friendships and loved her family dearly. Mary Ann was an ardent supporter of social justice and put her values into everyday practice. As singer/performer, teacher, colleague, friend, and family member, she touched the lives of many, many people in a profound way. Mary Ann O’Dougherty, of Minneapolis, passed away on February 25, 2009.

In closing, I would like to offer a suggestion on a sure fire way to insure that Mary Ann’s teachings remain a vital component of the IPR experience.  A driving motivation behind much of her effort here was to expand student awareness of the rich musical histories of both our American culture and cultures from around the world.  Within the walls of her classes, it was often possible to look around the room and literally see eyes being opened, ears being adjusted to the unfamiliar, and preconceived notions on the scope of what music is and can be, crumbling away.  For many, it was a first exposure to sounds and styles which, although hugely influential in other times and / or places, had thus far failed to penetrate the consciousness of the typical IPR student.  Who among us can deny that while dedicating ourselves to the niche genres we identify the most with, we can easily overlook incredible contributions made to music from outside our sphere of taste.  Therefore, as a simple way to honor Mary Ann’s memory I plan to push myself to explore music beyond the here and now, and to share those discoveries with those around me…give it a try…you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find!

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