TOP PICK Margot MacDonald: 'Rising' to the Occasion By Maria Villafana washingtonpost.com/MP3 Producer Friday, April 16, 2004 Instead of locking her innermost thoughts away in a diary -- the way most young girls do -- 12-year-old Margot MacDonald bears her soul in song, with a consistent lyrical depth that could easily rouse envy in any would-be wordsmith. The Virginia preteen's days are no different from her classmates'. There is school, homework and time spent with the family. A weekly music lesson and piano practice are her highlights. On-stage appearances are relegated mostly to the weekends, and the schedule is hardly demanding. Yet her performance opportunities over the past four years have brought her before hundreds, sometimes thousands, of listeners, including heads of states. Not long after Sept. 11, at 10, she recorded her first single, 'Imagine There's a World.' 'I sang this song hundreds of times at so many big events,' she recalls. The dollars raised went to America's Fund for Afghan Children, a humanitarian aid program sponsored by the White House. 'I received a really nice note from Laura Bush thanking me for the song.' UNICEF asked her to sing it at a 2002 benefit concert. Backed by the World Children's Choir, Margot found herself serenading Queen Noor. At the start of the war in Iraq, she wrote 'Whispers of the Dove.' '... Whispers of the dove/ Can't we heed her love?/ A wounded bird bows her head and weeps/ I ask why, Oh why, When doves cry ...' The razzing at school for being a bit different and exposure to Jerry Spinelli's novel (by the same name) produced 'Star Girl.' '... But uniformity's dull/ She dismisses all they say/ When she fails to be normal/ They treat her as gamma ray ...' Her first big break in the music business inspired 'So Good.' '... So no one knows my name/ No trophies on the shelf/ My only claim to fame/ Is just bein'myself ... 'Think I'd like to stay/ Havin' way too much fun/ Ain't it time to romp and play?/ I'm lovin' everyone!/ Life is just so good to me ...' Margot's music teacher helped her pull together a rough demo of the songs she had written and then passed it on to John Jennings, a producer-guitarist best known for his multi-Grammy Award-winning association with Mary Chapin Carpenter. At first Jennings talked about producing only a few songs, says Margot, but as he listened to more of her work he decided to expand the project. 'Even if I was a kid, he said I wrote real songs,' recalls Margot proudly. Now Margot has her first album, 'Rising,' an impressive 10-track disc produced by Jennings, with Lisa Reagan on piano/keyboards, Margot on vocals and the producer playing everything else. 'When something bothers me, like the war in Iraq, I write a song -- 'Whispers of the Dove.' And when I'm so happy I could pinch myself, how I felt working with John, I write a song -- 'So Good.' My songs keep me in balance. The challenging part is coming up with just the right words so others may feel it too.' ------------------------------------------ Discography: 2004 - Rising 2007 - Torn 2009 - Walls 2013 - Canvas.