After arriving at Grossmont in 1929, Merle Donahue quickly became an integral part of the school’s culture, establishing instrumental and vocal music groups and establishing traditions that continue today, such as the Red Robe Choir, the “jewel of the high school’s performing arts department.”
Merle and her colleagues Dorothy Smith and Eva McCarthy Quicksall were instrumental in the creation and evolution of the beloved Christmas Pageant, Grossmont’s gift to the community from 1926 until 1989. Merle’s dedication to the Christmas Pageant began in 1930 when she became Choral Conductor, a role she continued until 1962. The 1962 El Recuerdo acknowledges, “The one hundred and twenty members of the Red Robe Choir, in the Christmas Pageant, all responding to her artistry, make of musical experience a discovery and wonder for everyone.”
The 1957 El Recuerdo dedication to Merle captures her impact on Grossmont by praising her devotion and inspiration: under her “sensitive and precise direction and under the rhythmic pulse of her fingertips, Grossmonters have cherished the fame of their musical triumphs and rewards.”
At the end of Merle Donahue’s career at Grossmont, her knowledge and creativeness had created a vocal department renowned for its high quality of performance. Her impact on her students is exemplified by the lifelong friendships that many had with her after her retirement.