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McNamara's magical, musical moments

Music teacher Doris McNamara retires this week after 30 years teaching students how to sing and find joy in music at Farmington Elementary, the first elementary in Farmington. Kara Hildreth / contributor

FARMINGTON — Since childhood Doris McNamara has witnessed how the sounds of music touch hearts and inspires minds.

When she was 4 years old, she remembers being given 11 pennies from a gentleman at a nursing home who told her she had a beautiful voice. This man's kind sentiments influenced her to keep singing.

This week McNamara retires after 30 years of teaching music at Farmington Elementary, the first what now is one of five primary schools within Farmington School District 192.

Her parents' love of music inspired her to keep learning more about music. "I sang all the way through high school and college," she said.

Growing up in a family of six children with a mother who sang like the lead character Maria in "The Sound of Music" musical, she learned how life can be sweeter if you whistle while you work or sing songs.

"My mom sang conversations all the time and when we were cleaning the house and we just thought everybody's mom did that," McNamara said.

"Her passion comes through with her daily interaction with kids and all that passion flows through her music and right through to the lessons," said Kim Bollesen, principal at Farmington Elementary.

Things click

As a music teacher who has taught thousands of students, this year she taught 600 youth in kindergarten through fifth grade. Bollesen said, "I was fortunate to witness a lot of magical things when I walked into her room."

McNamara follows former students who continue with singing or decide to play in the band. She attends most music programs at the middle and high schools.

"I know what kids seem to remember most when they come back is all the programs," she said.

"I guess I like the demonstration concerts where students demonstrate how learn to sing and play instruments," she said. This year the third-graders wrote a musical based a West African story and called it "Who's in Rabbit's House?"

"The kids took repetitive parts and turned those into rhythms and then decided how they wanted to add instruments," McNamara said.

During this last week of school, fifth-graders performed a music program called "We Go for the Gold." They had recorded students' answers to "What does it mean to you to do your best and try your very hardest?"

These were showed via YouTube on a big screen during a school assembly.

"My favorite part in the classroom is when I am seeing things click like this year, when I had a class that was a little chatty and they were playing a complicated song and afterwards it was absolutely quiet in the room," McNamara said, recalling the light in the children's eyes and smiles on their faces. "They all said that was really cool."

Still singing

McNamara is leaving the music classroom but she isn't leaving music.

She sings with the group Sisters Act, two sets of sisters who perform monthly for seniors at Trinity Terrace in Farmington.

"Miracles happen all the time," she said.

She recounted how one woman who had not spoken for years began singing along to the songs that clearly triggered happy memories.

"The staff were all whispering and pointing about how this woman had not ever spoken and they saw her singing along," McNamara said. "The power of music gets you deep inside and you can see how it play out in other people's lives."