The Gilded Serpent presents...
Mary Ellen Donald
Nationally Acclaimed Author, Instructor and Performer in Middle Eastern Percussion for over thirty years and Masters Degree in Psychiatric Social Work
Mary Ellen Donald was born and raised just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In her early days she studied classical piano, voice, and both folk and flamenco guitar. In 1969 she was introduced to the art of belly dance, which she studied with Jamila Salimpour and Bert Balladine for six years. Very soon she fell in love with the passionate Middle Eastern music that accompanies the dance. Also in 1969 she took up the study of finger cymbals and doumbec (clay or metal lap drum also known as darabouka and tabla). Several years later she added the riqq (Middle Eastern tambourine) and tar (wooden frame drum).
Soon Mary Ellen’s innate teaching ability came to the fore as she started teaching classes and putting her knowledge of Middle Eastern percussion into written form. In 1976 she self-published Doumbec Delight and Mastering Finger Cymbals, both firsts in their field, followed by Arabic Tambourine in 1985. Mary Ellen produced companion tapes for these books as she realized that students would learn more easily if they could hear her play the examples in the books a number of times. In the later ‘90s she expanded her educational and artistic materials with two series: Middle Eastern Rhythms (four recordings with booklets containing musical notation), and Gems of the Middle East (three volumes of recordings and books).
Mary Ellen has taught workshops and performed with Middle Eastern bands in most of the major cities throughout the U.S. For over twenty-five years she has maintained a large student body in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mary Ellen takes her fiery percussion performances into elementary schools under the auspices of Young Audiences of the Bay Area, and some years ago with Adventures in Music with the San Francisco Symphony. She brings her lecture demonstrations to colleges as well. Mary Ellen is acclaimed not only as author, instructor, and performer, but also as a producer of major Middle Eastern music and dance events over the past twenty-five years.
Mary Ellen Donald’s musical accomplishments are noteworthy and even more so because she is blind. She plays her drums and lives her life with joy in her heart. She is blessed with a large community of students and friends who love her. Her latest musical passion is that of jazz singing.
Note: For more details about Mary Ellen’s life, see her twenty-five page autobiography included in Volume One of Gems of the Middle East, or visit her website.
Web site: www.maryellendonald.com
Every Saturday night at the Amira Restaurant in San Francisco, California
Doumbek Classes monthly In Oakland, California
- All recordings now available on CD!
GEMS OF THE MIDDLE EAST SERIES - Multiple CDs with matching songbooks
MIDDLE EASTERN RHYTHMS SERIES -including beginning to advanced levels in drum, tambourine and finger cymbals
Articles on Gilded Serpent by or about Mary Ellen Donald
The Rhythm and Reason Series
Originally published in BellyDance Magazine in 1978 as part of an ongoing column.
This magazine was published by Jasmine Samra in Palo Alto, California.
- 8-15-06 Bellydance Journalism, Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 14
One powerful tool used to mislead is bellydance journalism.
- 7-20-06 About Cymbals & a Workshop Checklist, Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 13
Believe it or not, playing cymbals can be a real pleasure. Playing them well can greatly enhance your dance performance. Playing apologetic or offbeat cymbals can ruin your dance performance.
- 6-5-06 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 12 Moved by the Music
I did all this because those sudden shifts in rhythm and tempo and the abrupt breaks in the music that were unfamiliar to me could have made me look like a fool...
- 5-15-06 Rhythmical Truths Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 11
In my books and in person, I make the point that there are two basic kinds of rhythmical variations – embellishments and fill-ins.
- 4-14-06 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 10-How to Avoid Being Eaten by Sharks
Not so fortunate are those people who feel threatened most of the time, limping from one extreme response to another.
- 2-9-06 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 9, Can't We All Get Along? Dancers and Musicians
First, you don’t have to be afraid of working with live music.
- 1-16-05 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 8, Leadership Risks
When you lead people, you take certain risks. One such risk is that of self-revelation.
- 11-22-05 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 7, Negatudes
I have just enjoyed putting on a show for a warm and responsive audience. What a joy! This has prompted me to take time to look at the role that an audience plays in the outcome of a performance.
- 11-14-05 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 6 Unexpected Mishaps
I invite you to chuckle with me as I retell several gems of last year. I wouldn’t dare to boast of any lesson you must learn from all of this, and discovery of a meaning is up to you!
- 10-7-05 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 5, Cymbals & the Music
But that’s not the rhythm. As I say at the beginning of each workshop, “Rhythm is the patterned arrangement of sound and silent.”
- 9-9-05 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 4, For Whom Do You Dance?
Who do you dance for – your audience or yourself?
- 7-18-05 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 3, Community Warfare
Time and again I hear dancers deplore the fact that in many parts of the country there are warring camps among dancers; that is, groups that openly oppose each other and that try to keep all useful information and all jobs to themselves.
- 5-27-05 The Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 2 - Special Experiences
The audience of mainly flamenco aficionados gave our Arabic Suite a clamorous response. This bringing together of bellydance and flamenco had begun as a flash of imagination in Cruz' mind.
- 4-6-05 The Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 1- Cymbals, Beyond Basics
Each rhythm has a distinct arrangement of accents. If you are sure of where these accents come, you can bring a unique flavor to each section of your routine.