Mary Donnelly is a native of Reno, Nevada and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, with a double major in English and French. While a student, she helped organize two children's choruses and enjoyed it so much; she went back to school to become certified to teach music. She also holds a Master's degree in education from Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Mary currently teaches in the Bud Beasley Elementary School in the Washoe (Nevada) County School District. She met George Strid in 1983 when they were team-teaching a sixth-grade general music class and their principal asked them to write a musical for Reading Week. From that beginning, a writing team was born, which has resulted in over 150 songs and 15 musicals published by Shawnee Press and other major publishers.