Sunday, October 21, 2001 (The Tennessean)
Hey, mister teacher man,
play a song for me.
|Doak Snead lets Alex Stevens, left, Sarah Cullum, right, and other members of his Calvary United Methodist preschool class get the feel of his guitar after singing a few songs....PHOTOS BY ADRIANE JAECKLE / STAFF|
By MARY HANCE / Staff Writer
If someone told songwriter Doak Snead that one of the songs on his new album sounded like a 3-year-old wrote it, he probably would take it as a compliment.
You see, Snead is an honest-to-goodness songwriter, but he also is a creative preschool teacher who draws much of his material from his bouncy young students at Calvary Young Children's School at Calvary United Methodist Church.
For example, Snead's song Go Potty started out as an impromptu way to make the hourly bathroom routine more fun for some of the reticent 3-year-olds in his class.
The Go Potty singing and humor caught on. Some of the children added lines and fervent refrains and the song became not just part of the daily routine but a favorite with the children .. and eventually their mamas and daddies, who found that singing made routines easier at home, too.
"He is so creative, and a good role model for the boys," says Jane DuBose, whose son Frank was one of Mr. Doak's students and is an enthusiastic Go Potty singer.
Mr. Doak, as he is affectionately known by the children in his program, has included Go Potty and almost a dozen other original songs on the album titled They Call Me Mister (available below)
The CD features not only Mr. Doak but the children themselves, singing and laughing and going about their daily business. It's currently being sold as a child-care center fund-raiser. Snead hopes to push it to the next level as a commercial venture in a future pressing of the CD for sale elsewhere.
The CD loosely follows a day in the preschoolers' lives. It includes some active and funny songs as well as some more reflective, religious ones.
One of the songs, Riding My Horse in the Sunshine, is being considered by playhouseradio.com for use on a CD to be used in therapy with children by the American Music Therapy Association.
Snead's two careers -- writing songs and taking care of children -- might at first seem incongruous. But they actually are a perfect fit for the 51-year-old who has not only found fodder for his songs at the preschool but also the talent and natural enthusiasm needed to perform and record them.
He came to Nashville from Texas in 1990 to pursue a career in music, working for Reba McEntire's publishing company. His songs have been recorded by Lari White and the contemporary Christian group Avalon and he continues to write adult music as well as the kids' stuff.
"I just keep trying to reinvent myself."
He came to Calvary initially as a parent, when his now 6-year-old daughter, Emma, was only 10 months old. He worked first as a volunteer and then as a substitute teacher. He now works three days a week as a regular employee helping with the 3 and 4 year olds and making music for larger groups of children.
Mr. Doak, who is not all that tall himself, presides over his young audience while seated on the floor. "Put those ears on," he says, watching as each child grabs his or her ears and looks rapt at him to see what comes next.
"Crisscross applesauce," he says, and immediately the audience's little legs fold into a crisscrossed position -- they all are ready for whatever Mr. Doak has conjured up for the day's "Together time."
His program includes music, a story, a couple of jokes andlots of movement. It begins with hands slapping on knees, then stomachs, then on to the cheeks. There's lots of giggling. He tells them he is a personal friend of Barney, the big purple dinosaur, and that they wen to school together. He calls his guitar a piano. He laughs a lot. He hugs a lot. He tells knock knock jokes. He giggles with the best of them.
And the children clearly love it.
"My wife says the reason I am a good children's entertainer is that I am the eternal child," he says, "I guess I am always a kid."
Some people have compared him to Raffi, and he likes that. "I love Raffi but I think I am a little bit more edgy."
"All the children want to have Mr. Doak. He is just 'It," says Calvary director Anne Parker, noting that Snead and another male teacher, "Mr. Jim," add balance to the mostly female teaching staff.
Ms. Zita (Zita Elrod), the lead teacher in the room where Snead works, says he definitely adds a creative dimension.
"We have lots of things we do that are tried and true that we have used for years. But he loves to be silly with the children, and he's willing to be foolish and have fun with them. His creativity just bubbles out."
He also hires out, teaching guitar lessons, taking his fun music program to other preschools and kindergarten classes, and doing workshops to help other preschool teachers learn some of his tricks.
"I've always been good with kids. They like me for some reason," he says. "I like to get down on the carpet with them, and I like to do artsy stuff. The funnier something is, the better the response you get from kids.
"Some people say I'm like the Pied Piper. I don't know if I'm the Pied Piper, but they sure do follow me."
Snead's decision to move to Nashville for the music has not turned out exactly the way he planned it.
"I came to be Bob Dylan," he says, laughing.
Instead, they call him "Mister" ... which is not a bad lot, he says.
"I love these little guys. I've got a whole bunch of short friends. I'm definitely happy with what I'm doing."