Jubilation Fellow Laura Doherty and friend

Laura Doherty

Chicago IL
Fellowship: 2020

“I’ve learned to get kids jumping and moving on the very first song. As soon as they jump, they are so free and joyful — it gives them permission to move.”

Laura found her place in the acoustic-folk world early on, picking up the guitar at age 16. Originally from Westchester County, NY, she moved to Chicago after college and soon joined the teaching staff of the legendary Old Town School of Folk Music. For over a decade, Laura was the director of Old Town School’s early-childhood Wiggleworms program.  

With an ear for a catchy melody, Laura recorded her first album, Kids in the City, in 2009. Shining Like a Star (2011), In a Heartbeat (2014), and Animal Tracks (2016) followed. High Five (2018) explores the themes of friendship, family, and childhood. Before recording her own children’s music, Laura co-produced Old Town School’s Wiggleworms Love You (2005), and has recorded educational songs for Disney Sound. Often joined by her band, The Heartbeats, Laura has performed hundreds of shows at venues and festivals across the country.

What led you to be a teaching artist?
The day I walked into the Old Town School, I was hooked! I attended one of their open-mic nights and student jam sessions, and was enamored with the music that filled the lobby, and filled my soul… people of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds, singing and playing joyfully together. I was already a skilled guitar player and singer-songwriter, so I began taking advanced guitar classes (jazz, latin rhythms, western swing, rock ensembles) and drums, banjo, mandolin, and electric bass. I volunteered at events for a couple of years, then was hired to teach adult guitar classes, and then hired full-time to direct their children’s program, and teach many of their kids classes. I found that working with young kids was pure joy. Twenty-one years later, I still teach in the Wiggleworms program, and love every minute of it!

Teaching philosophy:
Music is for everyone. I encourage creativity, sharing, inclusion, and empathy. It’s the experience of coming together to sing, play, and dance as a group that is important. I’ve never met a child who didn’t like music. It’s inherently within us to move to the music. In young children, there’s no hesitancy. Once they hear the music, they want to move their bodies. You can see the joy in their faces!

%d bloggers like this: