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Sara Doncaster brings the local hills alive with music

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copyright the Chronicle October 18, 2017


by Elizabeth Trail


“Everyone has a voice,” Sara Doncaster says.

It’s that philosophy, on every level, that has propelled the Lake Region Union High School music teacher into the spotlight as this year’s runner-up Vermont Teacher of the Year.

At the most obvious interpretation, “Dr. D,” as her students call her, means that the human voice is the one musical instrument that every person carries around all the time.

But on a more subtle level, it explains a lot about Ms. Doncaster’s teaching.

She’s all about finding the unique talents within each of her students. And that goes back to her own girlhood, when the love of music led an Irasburg farm girl to Boston University, where she double-majored in music theory and composition and piano performance. Eventually she earned a PhD from Brandeis University in theory and composition.

Ms. Doncaster comes from a family that lived and breathed music as naturally as they made hay and milked cows.

Her father, Wayne Doncaster Sr., didn’t learn to read music until his forties, when he bought a steel guitar and took his first lessons. Until then, he played by ear. He had a fine country and western voice and perfect pitch, she said.

Her mother, Elizabeth Doncaster, grew up a city girl in Newport, with piano and voice lessons.

And even though it was a financial hardship, the couple owned a piano, and all of their children played.

Elizabeth Doncaster was not only a farm wife and mother, but also a nurse. Still, she always found time for music.

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