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KIDS/SNEAK PEEK SONGS TAILORED TO PERSONALITIES.

Byline: - Nancy Hewitt

Music has always been part of Mary Donnelly Haskell's life. Her early stage experience included musical theater and performing with Kids of the Kingdom at Disneyland.

And when she and husband Sam expanded their family from two to four with the addition of a son and daughter, she wanted to share her love of music with her children - but with something they could enjoy. However, she soon discovered that options for children's entertainment was limited.

So, she and friend Michael Reno, who is also a producer and songwriter, decided to create a musical experience that would encourage children to use their imaginations yet make them feel special.

They set up masters of songs and decided to create personalized tapes by inserting kids' names. ``Wouldn't it be nice for a child to say: 'Mary's singing to me,' '' Haskell recalls. For example, a child called Eric would hear his name throughout every song on the tape, making him feel the tape was made just for him.

``My Songs,'' featuring six tunes, was released in 1990. ``More My Songs,'' which included seven songs, followed in 1996.

Both tapes have been highly successful. Even now, 10 years after the initial release, Haskell still receives positive comments. ``Mothers at the school tell me their kids love the tapes,'' she says.

But as much fun as Reno and Haskell had doing the first two tapes, they began toying with doing something different, something in a slightly different genre for the third release. Yet they wanted to create something warm, very familiar and comfortable to children, with songs that were hummable, plus soothing music to help little ones relax and go to sleep.

What they wanted was musical variety and different styles. ``Hello Dreamland'' began to take form. The nine-song album features a collage of styles. ``Each song has its own style, from Hawaiian to boogie-woogie,'' Haskell says.

The duo also determined that each song must have musical integrity. ``This is how we approach structuring our songs,'' she adds.

Haskell says they had to decide what their songs wanted to convey. If they wanted to elicit a feeling of coziness or comfort, she'd say: ``Let's do something with the warm and fuzzies.'' Hence, the title track.

But as Haskell learned with her own kids, there couldn't be an obvious lag between songs, otherwise kids lost focus. Setting up the album so that the songs seem to flow into each other was important. Reno was able to provide the music continuum necessary. ``These are interludes between songs so the music line isn't broken,'' she says.

Another consideration is what they wanted the songs to say. ``What do we want to touch on that a child may be thinking?'' Haskell recalls.

Haskell understands the world of kids. Being a mother, a school volunteer and being active in her church as an elder gives her the ideal means of observing and conversing with children.

And she admits she didn't want kids or their parents to become bored with her music. ``It's not necessary to go to simplistic music like 'Old McDonald,' '' she says. ``It's been a real kind of adventure for Michael and I to take the next step with 'Dreamland.' ''

Although she occasionally performs with symphonies, Haskell has not been able to perform in person for kids. Between juggling her responsibilities as a working mom, which include recording, episodic TV and TV films, she hasn't been able to include live performances in her schedule. But she remains hopeful that she will get out and perform for and meet the youngsters very soon.

``Hello Dreamland'' is available on CD for $15.99 or cassette $10.99 through My Songs Company: (800) 613-4449. You can also order cassettes of ``My Songs'' and ``More My Songs'' for $11.99 each by calling the same number.

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Mary Donnelly Haskell: ``Each song has it own style, from Hawaiian to boogie-woogie.''
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 26, 2000
Words:653
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