Ottawa songwriter takes tune to the masses, hometown

Teachers help guide students along life's highway. This spring an Ottawa man found out it's a two-way street.

Hartford High School English teacher Marc Haney spent a lot of his summer vacation recording songs for a CD after the senior cast members of the spring play asked him to perform his song, "The 90° Angle." for their commencement.

"It's about ignoring fear of failure, or any number of excuses that prevent us from acting in a situation and simply doing what we know is the right thing to do, whether it's a big thing or a little thing, whether it gets noticed or not," Haney said.

The song was originally called "Just Because I Know It's Right" and was one that had fallen into the "almost finished" category for a few years until it came together during a family gathering this spring.

Haney's youngest son, Michael, and his wife were getting ready to leave for a three year Air Force assignment in England. After dinner the family got out their guitars and a few other instruments, sang together and took turns sharing songs they had written.

His middle son, Jonathan sang a song he had written for his wife and that's when Haney's own song left limbo.

"They both have degrees in math and his song had all kinds of clever mathematical references to his love for her. That's when I changed the song title to "The 90° Angle," he said.

"It seemed to be the name the song was waiting for."

Haney wrote and directed the senior play the past two years at Hartford in east-central Kansas, south of Melvern. Before rehearsals, he likes to get out his guitar and play a song the cast can sing along with.

One afternoon the cast asked him to sing a song he had written, so he sang the recently completed "The 90° Angle," he said.

The seniors in the cast asked me if I would sing it for their commencement, made the arrangements, and I was on the program and very honored that they asked me," Haney said.

"The response to the song reminded me that if I really think my music has something to say to folks, I need to get it out where it can be heard." 

Hartford Teacher Records His Songs

After an independent recording career that began in 1975, when independent largely meant "low budget," singer/songwriter Marc Jonathan Haney continues to write and release his music to a wide range of listeners. He has recently reached a point where it's not entirely a solo effort, at least for one of his songs.

In 2005, following contact initiated by a nephew, Haney wrote and submitted a song to Advance Publishing, a publisher of character-education books and music. No only was the song signed, but in December of 2006 Haney was asked by Joey Garza, Advance's record producer, to record the lead vocal on his song "Exactly Who I Am."

Music tracks were recorded in Nashville by Grammy Award winning musician Brian Green. Haney's vocal tracks were recorded at Sound Trek Studio in Kansas City, Missouri. A children's chorus added backing vocals at Advance's studio in Houston. "Exactly Who I Am" is scheduled to be the theme song for the book "The Richest Poor Kid." The release date for that CD is unknown and Marc is patiently waiting for the finished product; waiting patiently but not idly.

Haney, who teaches English and directs the annual senior high play at Hartford High School spent much of this past June and July recording songs for a CD called "The 90° Angle" which has just been released on Haney's own Plains Label.

Motivation to record this project came when Haney was asked by seniors in the cast of last year's play to perform his song "The 90° Angle," for the Hartford High Commencement last May.

"It was an honor to be asked and the response to the song reminded me that if I really think my music has something to say to folks, I need to get it ot where it can be heard."


In addition to being a superb musician and songwriter, Marc Jonathan Haney is also a classroom teacher who write's  musical gifts for each year's class. This recording contains five such gifts including the outstanding opener, "This Song's for You." The other songs dedicated to his students are "Dream Class," Can't Go Back,"The Year We Had," and "Time to Move You On."

Haney's vocals are similar to John Hiatt and Randy Newman, and the song styles are reminiscent of John McCutcheon. Haney plays all instruments and sings both lead and backing vocals with great success. Other songs on the recording deal with childhood nostalgia and friendship and may appeal to grownups more than kids. Teachers might want to play these songs as gifts for their own students or use them as blueprints for their original creations. The general public will simply enjoy the wonderful melodies and musicianship.

Let Us Go to Bethlehem - Marc Haney and friends

This is not your average traditional Christmas album. None of the songs are old favorite carols. There are no fancy bells or  tight string arrangements. Any listeners?

It is the lack of the "Yuletide rut" which makes Marc Haney's album so enjoyable. It is very noticeable that the usual "Christmas image" was disregarded when Marc and friends went into the studio.

It is possible that Let Us Go to Bethlehem will be too different for some. The listener is introduced to some Christmas rock music . . . that's right Christmas rock!

Shepherd's Song is done in a fifties bopper style, and the rest of the cuts are a smooth blend of acoustic tunes interwoven with short scripture narrations. Side one opens with a baby's cry and from that moment on the listener is given a very personal look at the birth of the Savior and the events surrounding the joyous occasion. Joseph's personality is well developed throughout therecord, adding to feeling of love which the entire piece radiates.

The best thing about this Christmas album is that because of Marc's different approach to presenting our savior's birth, you can play the record year round without family and friends thinking you're off your rocker.

Some poets don't care if no one hears their poetry. One guitar folk with a distinctly biblical tilt comes from Marc Jonathan Haney's Honest to God, and he's one lonely poet who deserves to be heard.

Marc Jonathan Haney - Honest to God and Down to Earth

Folk music may be on a resurgence, but every indicator suggests that Haney has been writing and playing his funny, insightful acoustic guitar songs since the early 70s. Honest to God subtitled "Songs from the Journey," spans from that early time to the near present, as Haney's skill with a song and spiritual life developed. Down to Earth  finds Haney backed by other players and singers to good effect, but the focus is still these fine songs. At times recalling Jimmy Buffet, early Randy Stonehill and a simpler time in Christian music. Haney will find a down home audience that's been looking for this kinder, gentler music.

Coasters Frozen in Time

. . . This was rock from a time when many of the words were still discernable to listeners who had not yet suffered a 40 percent hearing loss. Yet, rock or no, while the Coasters seemed to be a hit, the sound system is too much of a blast in certain parts of the auditorium.

Marc Haney, 513 South Oak, did the warmup for the Coasters on two hours notice. He sang half a dozen songs, including several that he wrote, accompanying himself on guitar. The song that particularly tickled the audience's funny bone was "Franklin County Kansas," a song he wrote about a year ago and performed in public for the first time. the words tell it all:

Franklin County Kansas

by Marc Jonathan Haney


I live in Franklin County Kansas but I work out of town

Like so many others goin’ where the jobs are found

And in all the time I’ve been here and everything I’ve seen

The best trade in Franklin County is sellin’ tires and gasoline


I live in Franklin County Kansas but it could be anywhere around

A Pennsylvania steel town where the mills are closin’ down

Or a Detroit auto factory, most any farm in the midwest

The rich seem to just get richer and the poor just do their best


What good is a nice safe place for your kids to grow and play

When there’s no food on the table and the bills aren’t gettin’ paid

And it tears a daddy’s heart out when he just can’t provide

But desperate isn’t hopeless if you’ve still got some faith inside


I live in Franklin County Kansas but I may not be for long

And if I leave you’ll understand when you hear this song

But I’d miss the friends I’d leave behind and they just might keep me here

If I can find a way to make something pay I’ll give it another year (to chorus)


They say the tough get goin’ when the goin’s tough

When you’re down to nothin’ then your faith can do its stuff (to chorus)





© 1989 marc jonathan haney

Marc Jonathan Haney, famed Ottawa Middle School sixth-grade instructor has released his fifth song collection, "earthlings." The CD is recommended listening for students and families alike. Check out the cut "Fountain of Youth," a touching song inspired by an act of vandalism.

earthlings by Marc Jonathan Haney

Attention, folks at the Public Broadcasting Service. Put down your plans for the Christmas Release of the "Potty-Train Me Elmo" doll and listen to me. You have got to hire this guy I'm reviewing for His name is Marc Jonathan Haney. He's a sixth grade teacher and singer/songwriter who just released his fifth CD, "earthlings." 

Several of these songs are musical gifts he wrote for his departing students at the end of the school year. He co-wrote one of these songs with his young son. Another song, "Hawthorne State," is really a funny rap with mock classroom announcements in the background done in a nerdy voice. It's so cool. I can't believe you haven't heard of him already. Whaddaya mean, why hadn't I heard of him either? Hey, I've been busy. And it's your job to keep up with this stuff anyway. Believe me, you could use this guy somewhere on Sesame Street or that show with the blue bear - what am I saying? Just give Haney his own show. It's not fair that only kids in his home state of Kansas get to have him as a teacher. Give him to the whole country.

Did I mention he writes songs for his students? All my sixth grade teacher gave me was a number two pencil with some teeth marks in it (She was trying to quit smoking, our class gave her a lot of stress . . . it's a long story). You want lyrics? How sweet is this - from "Dream Class" : Brain gymnastics and paper clip toys The daily antics of the dragon boys Three girls makin' faces, everybody makin' noise What kind of class is this? It's my first choice!"

He sounds like Randy Newman and has a warm sense of humor, strong sentiment, and a heart of gold. You'd love him. Trust me. Please hire him. I don't want to have to move to Kansas when I have kids in order for them to get a song from him.

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I didn't quit I was kicked out

. . . of the Alfred E. Newman Community College School of the Stoic and Apathetic Arts after it was discovered that I had paid my tuition with funds drawn on an interest bearing checking account.