By Gus Widmayer
Conclusion of a 3-part story
Nancy Walton (Flindell) Peters lives in an antique house down the Groton Road and into Shirley. She taught at Groton School and Lawrence Academy and continues to teach at Indian Hill Music School, being a founding member of the latter school.
After realizing that Radcliffe was focused on music history and musicology, Nancy steered her education toward the Longy School where an emphasis was placed on performance. Her Radcliffe professor once asked her to sight-read a hymn that Nancy had never played before. She was sufficiently nervous so much so that when finished, the man asked her to play it again, “and this time would you please put in the accidentals?” She had forgotten to play the sharps and flats! Other than this, Nancy felt that Radcliffe cared not one bit about practical performance. Her degree remained elusive after three years of studying when she married her classmate Richard Whitney Peters.
Dick Peters became Nancy’s husband and the couple’s first child arrived 18 months later. Mr. Peters spent his career as a technical writer for New England companies such as Sylvania and Raytheon. Born at Medford to Emily (Whitney) and Alexander Peters, Richard’s family exited from Winchendon where his Whitney forbearers owned and operated New England Wooden Ware.
Raised in Concord, Dick attended Harvard for two years before enlisting in the Army. Rising to the rank of first lieutenant during the Second World War, he saw active duty in the Philippines and New Guinea, where he received shrapnel in his right arm. That injury precluded him from pursuing his intended career of surgical medicine.
After the war Dick graduated cum laude in philosophy from Harvard. He then went on to Longy School where he met Nancy. After a year, he switched to Brandeis University to receive a master’s in fine arts in his primary love of music composition. A noted instructor of his was the famed Leonard Bernstein, who taught a seminar there when not conducting the New York Philharmonic or other orchestras around the world.
In keeping with the postwar baby boom, Nancy and Dick raised four children. They selected the town of Harvard for its excellent schools before finally moving to this home in Shirley. Eldest Sheila Whitney Peters is a dancer living in Harvard. She taught dance at Groton School for a number of years while raising two children of her own. The next child is Rachel Flindell Peters, a tech writer like her father and living now in Sonoma, Calif., with one son.
The third child, and only son, was Bruce Lindsay Peters, a boy gifted in chemistry and zoology working toward his degree from the University of Massachusetts. Tragedy struck the young man down in his prime at the age of 25 while riding as a passenger in a car that crashed. The fourth and youngest child is a daughter, Andrea (Peters) Hill, mother of two musically-gifted boys. She is a technical writer like her father and elder sister. Nancy refers to Andrea as her “welcome home child” for Dick, who had been hospitalized for several months before his youngest was conceived.
There were two foster children from Cambodia who came to live with the Peters after their own four had grown.
One final chapter, a musical movement of its own sort, softened the sorrowful epilogue on Bruce. Before Nancy’s son was killed, he had a child with a girlfriend. Nancy and Dick traveled with Bruce to Western Massachusetts to answer a claim of paternity, which at that time was thrown out of court by a judge for lack of any evidence. Some two decades later the girl sent pictures of herself to Nancy and Dick one Christmas. The letter had been lost in the mail after making the rounds to no fewer than three Shirley families with the surname Peters. Nancy herself returned the letter unopened twice, convinced that it was meant for another family. Ultimately, the letter resurfaced and Nancy opened it. She immediately saw the resemblance and a later DNA test confirmed that this was the long-lost granddaughter, an especially poignant blessing after all the heartache surrounding the loss of their son.
Nancy’s husband Dick died in 2008. Nancy recalled a great friend of his, an Englishman with residence in Belize, named John Minty, who had taught painting at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln. Two of his pieces hang prominently in her music room alongside a painting by her grandfather, (in watercolor), and several pieces by her mother and granddaughter (in oil).
Nancy also has two great-grandchildren. During her child-rearing years, Nancy taught piano from her home and began a long sojourn at Brandeis to complete (with cum laude status) the degree that marriage and motherhood had denied her.
Nancy taught piano and harp for 37 years at Groton School, retiring only recently from Groton in 2013. She also taught for many years at Lawrence Academy. She took up harp later in life, though piano remained her first love.
Nancy Peters is a founding member of the Indian Hill Music Center that moved “from pillar to post,” before settling into its current quarters at Littleton. Its earlier roots had been with the Groton Center for the Arts before several of its members, including Nancy, broke away.
Nancy forged many friendships in town, none more steadfast than her business partnership with Sue Gleason. Sue on her flute and Nancy at the harp comprise Wind Chimes, a musical duo who perform at special occasions and have published five compact discs.
In the last decade or so, Nancy has composed many pieces, not only for the flute and harp performances by Wind Chimes but also for solo harp and harp ensembles. She is particularly known for her suite in four movements called Coastal Suite for Flute and Harp, as well as her pedagogical series of six books of compositions designed to supplement and enhance harp education. Her compositions are published by BKJ Publications of Cornelius, N.C.
Nancy is still teaching at Indian Hill. In fact, her newest student is none other than my daughter, Sophie, who, just out of sight, continued to listen to our discussion. There were other stories that Nancy thought to share but opted to omit.
“Some other lids, I could lift,” she waxed poetically before discretion became the better part of valor. Nor were they necessary since her story was already richly imbued with a love of music, art and family.
Never one to have idle hands, Nancy knits a bit, grows orchids and smocks dresses, a craft she learned from her mother. Once in a while, Nancy will sell a smocked dress at a local craft shop.
The draw that Groton holds for Nancy continues to be its beauty and cultural offerings along with a love for history replete with that style of living that comes with a country setting, particularly with a home such as hers filled with antiques.
It was a pleasure to take this oral history from Groton’s musical maestro. Her clarion call is surely one that will resonate in town for music students in generations to come.
I myself have heard her play the harp, enchanting every ear that listens. Like the ancient Greeks, we must beware this enticing Siren. But, oh, that mesmeric, sweet sound calling us into her arms!