Deaconess McDonnell has a Bachelor’s degree in music education from James Madison University in Virginia, where she was born and raised. She earned both her master’s and a doctorate in theology from Concordia Seminary. She and her husband have been members of Salem since 2003. Both of their sons are Salem and Lutheran South graduates. She has taught Salem’s 7th-grade religion class and will teach K-4th general music. She is very active in Salem Church’s music ministry.