I Need a Home for My Dinosaur
30th Anniversary Celebration 1991-2021
My first teaching job
... was at Windsor Elementary School, Windsor, Nova Scotia. I was hired as the music teacher for Grade Primary (Kindergarten) to grade 6. The school was housed in two separate buildings, one of which was 100 years old. The heating and plumbing pipes running along the ceiling, the big windows, the green and black tile floors and the old hardwood chairs had a certain charm. I enjoyed the large space I was assigned for my music room. There was room for chairs at one end and space for a carpeted area at the other end. My room was across the hall from a board room that was only used after school hours. This meant I wasn’t disturbing other classes with my music class activities. However, my room was adjacent to the library, probably not such a great location for anyone hoping for a “quiet” reading area.
I Need a Home for My Dinosaur was one of those songs that just “arrives” without fanfare or really even much effort. The seeds were planted (for me as a composer) when I happened to cut through the school library as a shortcut to get to my music classroom. The librarian had placed some books out in a display and one of the books was “Home for a Dinosaur”. I saw the book as I walked by the display and thought it was an interesting title, but I didn’t pick it up or read it. Apparently the title filed itself in my brain somewhere.
I don’t know if it was the same day (but it probably was) and a class of grade one students had arrived for their music class. They were being a bit noisy and instead of using my voice to quiet them, I sat down at the piano and started to play slow, swing eighths with a blues shuffle feel. After 4 beats, the students started to quiet down and I repeated the figure again. Then I said "repeat after me" and I started to sing, “I need a home for my dinosaur” and they repeated that. Then I sang, “I need it right away” and they echoed again. I repeated the first line and as they were echoing that one, I was trying to think of a closing line. “My mom wants to give him away.” Phew! I made it! The rhyming scheme was not stellar. In fact both of the lines ended in “away” but it hung together.
Now I had to figure out a storyline explaining why I needed to give away my dinosaur. Every line was made up and sung on the spot and I was formulating the next line as the children were echoing what I had just sung. Again, the rhyming words were often the same words and they were not particularly clever, but the children were engaged, we were singing and no one was talking! I was delighted. I have always enjoyed telling stories, and a story with a laugh is one of the best kind, so each verse had a bit of a twist.
In the first verse, eating corn flakes was pretty normal (well maybe not for a dinosaur, but let’s not get technical!) but eating the spoon was not so great. It also caused the mom to insist that the dinosaur must go. In the second verse, Dad’s new slippers were the next victim. By this time the pattern was set and it was apparent that the dinosaur was prone to eating things that he should not be eating. It is always fun to see a child’s eyes widen when they realization the pattern that is unfolding. What will the dinosaur eat next?
The third verse popped in my head from that special place that fires the imagination of a mischievous child. What if my sister went in the dinosaur pen? Ha ha! He would probably eat her. Good idea if one wants to get rid of a pesky younger sibling. But wait, that would only lead to bad consequences for the older sibling. Common decency prevails and the sister doesn’t end up as dinosaur dinner. In my defense, I have also presented the inspiration for the third verse as perhaps the older sibling is just distracted by trying to figure out how to fix the dinosaur problem. When the sister comes pestering to go play with the dinosaur, the answer is given out of distraction and not out of malice. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!). Again, the crisis is averted so no sisters are harmed in the making of this song!
It is amazing that all these thought processes can be running through your head while your hands are playing the accompaniment, the kids are singing and when you open your mouth the words come out. When the class left, I quickly wrote down the words to my new song. I flew up the stairs to the staff room to share the creative moment with my fellow elementary school teachers. I don’t remember that they were nearly as excited as I was, but they were a supportive bunch and they were always there to humour the eccentricities of the music teacher.
I started using “I Need a Home for My Dinosaur” in school programs and festivals. When other music teachers heard it, they requested copies to use with their students. When I was taking my Level 3 Kodaly certification, one of the electives was how to use a music writing program for the computer. I was delighted to be able to use my newly acquired skills to write out “I Need a Home for My Dinosaur” and provide it to fellow teachers in such a “professional” format. The first published copies were distributed in 1991.
In 1995 I combined "I Need a Home for My Dinosaur" with 8 other songs to create a book which I self-published. I printed 100 copies of my book and set up a table at our provincial music teacher conference (Nova Scotia Music Educators’ Association). My mother also single-handedly sold many, many copies to anyone who crossed her path. It is always helpful to have a supportive family network! My catalogue of original songs is now well over 450, and continually growing, and it all started with that problematic and constantly hungry dinosaur!My dinosaur song was the catalyst for my publishing career and it also paved the way for me becoming a professional performer of children’s music. Two local musicians had heard “I Need a Home for My Dinosaur” and wanted to use it for a children’s performing group they were forming. At a meeting to discuss the use of my original songs for children, we started to sing and, once again, “I Need a Home for My Dinosaur” was the first song in the pile that we pulled out to try. This meeting was the birthplace of the professional singing trio DonnaWendyAndy (1996 - 2000), which turned into Donna & Andy (2000 - present)
Audio Tracks on YouTube
Images by grade 5 students from the Canadian International School of Hong Kong
Donna & Andy love to tour
It was a great outlet for me as a composer to have the opportunity to sing my original songs in front of large audiences of children. As Donna & Andy, we have traveled and sung for hundreds of thousands of children in all four Atlantic Provinces plus Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, Canada. We have also traveled internationally with a 3-week residency at the Canadian International School of Hong Kong. And guess who went with us? My dinosaur, of course!
Even when not traveling with Donna & Andy, I Need a Home for My Dinosaur gets around. It was one of twelve songs recorded on the Donna & Andy CD, Dinosaurs, Dragons and Me. The CD won the Music Nova Scotia award for Children’s Album of the Year and it went on to receive an East Coast Music Association (ECMA) nomination and, in 2007, a JUNO nomination. The old cliché, “It was an honour just being nominated,” became a true statement in our case. We (Donna & Andy) attended the JUNO gala in Saskatoon, SK with great excitement. We were thrilled to “walk the red carpet” along with top Canadian musicians from all genres.
In 2012, and again in 2019 “I Need a Home for My Dinosaur” was published by Frederick Harris in the Royal Conservatory of Music graded vocal series. This introduced my dinosaur to many young singers who sang it for their exams and then students began singing it in studio recitals and festivals as well. I have been delighted to see and hear some of the studio recital and festival performances via posts on YouTube. Videos and performances of young singers delighting the audience with their rendition of “I Need a Home for My Dinosaur” have been posted on YouTube resulting in thousands of views. I am so grateful to everyone who has taken such good care of my dinosaur over the years.
One more connection of note: Nikki Loney of FULL VOICE Music had used “I Need a Home for My Dinosaur” in her private vocal studio for many years. She invited me to be her guest on The Full Voice Podcast to discuss my songs with her listeners. I have so enjoyed getting together with Nikki to discuss my songs and teaching experiences on her podcasts.
Full Voice Podcast (FVPC) #45 - Interview with Donna Rhodenizer and Andy Duinker - May 14, 2018
FVPC #87 - New Music for Young Singers: Interview with Donna Rhodenizer - June 7, 2019
FVPC # 119 - Vocal Studies for Kids!: Interview with Donna Rhodenizer - May 01, 2020
Our first meeting (May 2018) was the beginning of a wonderful musical collaboration. When the Covid-19 pandemic was shutting down the world and our regular way of doing things, Nikki was determined to assist her fellow teachers with online resources to help them continue singing with students. We worked together creating online resources such as vocal warm-ups, solfege studies and repertoire that could be used with online voice lessons both for private music teachers and classroom music educators.
Since the door was firmly closed to Donna & Andy touring and doing performances in person, I was able to don my composer’s hat and dedicate a large block of time to composing and creating new music. This focused time for composing resulted in over 70 new songs written in 2020! From the fall of 2019 to the end of 2020, FULL VOICE Music has published 30 of my songs, most of them new music created specifically for young voice students. I look forward to my continued partnership with Nikki Loney and FULL VOICE Music. We are planning the launch of many new songs and resources in 2021 (and beyond!). What a joy it has been to experience this creative outlet and celebrate music making, even while other musical avenues have been temporarily put on hold.As part of the 30th anniversary/birthday celebrations for “I Need a Home for My Dinosaur” we are partnering with Nikki Loney of FULL VOICE Music to offer this song as a Single Song Download with vocal lead sheet, full score, lyrics, teaching strategies and backing tracks. Find ordering details for this special anniversary edition plus some of the other new songs I published with Full Voice in 2020 at https://www.thefullvoice.com/songs
Many YouTube Videos of "I Need a Home for my Dinosaur"
We have kept track of some of the videos posted of students performing “I Need a Home for My Dinosaur.” One of my favourites is a recital featuring three young boys who are dressed like movie stars and ready to charm the audience with their performance. We also discovered Oliver singing with gusto. These performances make me smile!
We have found many other YouTube performances and the links are listed below so you can check them out. Have fun listening and share the love by giving these young performers a “thumbs up” for their musical efforts. You can also search "I Need a Home for My Dinosaur" on Youtube as well to see many more wonderful submissions.
Lyrics and Coloring Page
Download the lyrics and print this fun coloring page and have fun singing along as you color. Click on the images to download and print.
Donna & Andy's "Top of the Class" membership has lots more coloring pages, lyrics, audio tracks and activities for 36 Donna & Andy songs.
Composer, Elementary Music Specialist
Donna is an accomplished songwriter, performer, recording artist and music educator. Donna knew she wanted to be a teacher from the age of 5 and she combined her passion for music and her love for teaching into a 35-year career in the elementary music classroom.
Donna received the NSMEA Musica Viva Award (2009) for her outstanding contribution to music education in Nova Scotia and the 2011 CMEA Jubilate Award of Merit for her significant contribution to music education in Canada. In 2019 she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NSMEA.
Donna's song compostions now top 450 with 70 new compostions in 2020 alone.
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