BYU Alumna ‘Hope of America’ Founder Had Her Start with ‘Curtain Time USA’
In 1996, Kathy Macdonald founded Hope of America, an elementary school musical program designed to promote patriotism and strength of character in children. The program has been adopted in 78 charter, private, home and public schools in Utah.
Macdonald’s work exemplified the 2015 Harris Fine Arts Center’s 50th anniversary theme, “From this into all the world.”
For decades, the College of Fine Arts and Communications has produced graduates who go on to influence their communities, and Macdonald experienced that transformation firsthand. She grew up in Utah and rarely left the state, but coming to BYU gave her several opportunities to travel.
“When I got to BYU, I had never been anywhere outside of Utah except for Denver,” Macdonald said. “But then I got to tour in New York City and Europe, which (experiences) were life-changing.”
Macdonald took part in these tours as a member of Curtain Time USA, the precursor to the BYU Young Ambassadors. She majored in sociology but received a minor in dance. She also earned a teaching certificate.
As a mother of eight children, she had many opportunities to observe how kids learn new information.
“There’s no better way to learn things than through music and lyrics,” Macdonald said. “Children can learn religious and non-religious things much faster if they learn with music.”
Macdonald put these ideas to widespread use when she was on a county committee for the Utah State Centennial. The committee needed somebody to be a liaison with the schools, and Macdonald accepted that responsibility.
Provo’s Freedom Festival held a large fireside at the Marriott Center each year as part of the Fourth of July celebrations, and someone in charge of the festival suggested the idea of having a children’s choir with 2,000 members.
Macdonald incorporated the project as part of the Utah State Centennial, and it was a hit.
“I jokingly said if I was alive in 100 years from now, I’d run the next one,” Macdonald said. “The schools contacted us and said that the kids loved it.”
Children in the program learn several songs focused on patriotism and American history. They also participate in activities to promote personal character and morality, including an alphabet of spiritual, moral and mental values. These in-class activities have greatly impacted the lives of the children and their teachers.
“She’s so dynamic and (such) an incredibly creative, talented and good person,” said Denece Kitto, an elementary school teacher who has been involved in the program since 1996. “She focuses on what’s right physically, mentally and morally. She worked with dozens of teachers, but still made time for me individually to answer my questions.”
Macdonald hopes to roll out the program to a national audience. To read more about the program, click here.