The recent, very unexpected death of Donald Teeters fills me with profound sadness.
Former Music Director of The Boston Cecilia, former Music Director of All Saints Parish, Brookline, and current Professor of Music at the New England Conservatory, Donald apparently died of heart disease just shy of his 78th birthday, which we were to celebrate—as we do annually on September 2nd—with a lobster dinner in my home in Gloucester.
Donald was a mentor extraordinaire, teaching hundreds of students at the conservatory and coaching countless singers and instrumentalists. One of his many passions was to seek out young, highly gifted musicians, and give them a chance on the Boston stages such as Jordan Hall or Sanders Theatre.
Donald was eclectic in his musical tastes. From Bach to Britten, to Tavener, he loved it all!! And G. F. Handel—I have lost track of the number of Handel oratorios that delighted Boston audiences under Donald’s baton with The Boston Cecilia. He was constantly studying new scores and premiering new works. Most memorable for me were works by Boston composers such as Daniel Pinkham, Scott Wheeler, John Harbison, Donald Martino, James Woodman, and Nicholas White (who succeeded Donald as Music Director of The Boston Cecilia).
On June 8th Donald had just been honored for 47 years of service as Music Director at All Saints Parish, Brookline. He was more than a musician there. Through times of difficulty and times of great joy or sadness, he was there—reliable, steady, guiding, comforting, teaching, playing the organ, planning beautiful liturgies, and conducting one of the finest church choirs in the Boston area. He was a true minister to all.
Following his recent retirement from All Saints Parish, Brookline and The Boston Cecilia, Donald had begun a new and vibrant life. He had been looking forward to serving on the Executive Committee of the Boston Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, teaching at the New England Conservatory, writing reviews of local classical music performances, and working with the new group Opera Brittenica, for whom he conducted The Burning Fiery Furnace in early May.
Recently he returned from a trip to Prague, where he had visited the monuments and graves of Dvorak, Smetana, and many other Czech luminaries. His latest communication was a-glow with excitement. All who knew Donald are in shock that he has departed this life so abruptly. His family is planning a memorial service for sometime this fall at All Saints Parish in Brookline where his ashes will be interred. The date and time has not yet been determined.
What will I miss the most about the man who gave me my opportunity as a 23 year-old grad student at NEC to become his assistant for the then Cecilia Society? His quick wit, his off-the-charts enthusiasm, his superb culinary skills, his sage advice, and conversations that were so engaging they never seemed to end. Donald’s life of kindness, of beauty, and of generosity will be reflected in the tears of all of us who mourn the loss of a life well-lived and well-loved.
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