Mennard shares his love of 'the good life' through music

2009-08-26T23:45:00Z Mennard shares his love of 'the good life' through musicBY JEFF KORBELIK / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
August 26, 2009 11:45 pm  • 

As a native Californian who lived in Napa Valley, Mike Mennard's reaction to moving to Nebraska was not surprising.

"I really didn't want to come," the children's recording artist said, recalling how a job for his wife, Michelle, at Union College brought them here in 2002. "I really thought I would hate it."

To make matters worse, the Mennards arrived in Lincoln at the end of July.

"I thought we had moved into someone's mouth, it was so hot and humid," he recalled.

But after seven years in the Husker state, the 42-year-old Mennard can't imagine living anywhere else.

"Our friends and family back in California think we've gone bonkers," he said. "We love it here. I want to be a

lifer."

He became enamored with the state after visiting many of its tourist attractions, from the Scotts Bluff National Monument to the Henry Doorly Zoo.

"Maybe it's because I've come in (from the outside) ... I don't even know if Nebraskans know how great it is here," he said. "The people, the vibe of the state ... it's all marvelous."

His love for the state has prompted him to write and record a CD about living "the good life," called "We've Got it All in Nebraska."

The disc is an entertaining romp through the history, facts and myths of the Cornhusker state. It's geared toward kids, but adults will find it enjoyable, too.

The idea for it, he said, came from his friend Cindy Johnson, a fourth-grade teacher at Hill Elementary School. Mennard performs at the school two or three times a year.

Johnson encouraged him to write a song for her class about Nebraska.

So he did.

It became the CD's title cut, a light-hearted ditty filled with Nebraska trivia, including when it became a state (1867), its state bird (meadowlark) and what's considered the state's "official soft drink" (Kool-Aid).

"From there, I just couldn't stop," he said. "I was having so much fun."

With his son Ramsey starting fourth grade, Mennard wrote many of the songs to fit the Lincoln Public Schools' fourth-grade social studies curriculum. He's making the CD available to fourth-grade teachers to use in their classrooms.

"A song makes information easier to remember and more fun," he said.

Mennard, an English professor at Union College, is a former contemporary Christian artist. He often would incorporate "family music" into his gospel concerts, and soon those songs became the most-requested.

Concertgoers were disappointed, he said, that the fun, zany songs were not available on CDs or cassettes.

That changed in 2004 when he produced his first family project, "Something's Rotting in the Fridge." He's recorded four more family-friendly CDs, including the recent Nebraska one.

"Kids music is so much more fun than grown-up music," he said.

His friend Johnson noted Mennard is quite adept at connecting with children through his music. There's a humorous song about dysentery on the Nebraska CD.

"The kids go 'Ewwwww' on that one," she said. "There's a little bit of that kind of humor in a lot of his songs."

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com.

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