Sister Dorothy Dolahenty hanging up the keys after six decades of teaching piano in Muswellbrook

RETIREMENT: Sister Dorothy Dolahenty is hanging up the keys after six decades of teaching piano.
RETIREMENT: Sister Dorothy Dolahenty is hanging up the keys after six decades of teaching piano.

IT takes an extraordinary amount of effort and passion to do anything for six decades.

And, if that something is teaching, then patience is also a much-needed virtue.

Luckily for young musicians all around the state, and especially here in Muswellbrook, Sister Dorothy Dolahenty has had all of those traits in spades throughout her time as a piano teacher. 

She has plied her trade in Lochinvar, Merriwa, Cardiff, Sydney, Charlestown and Kurri Kurri, before returning her place of birth – Muswellbrook – where she has resided for the past 29 years.

Coming from a family of 11, she was the only musical child, and learnt how to play a number of instruments including the violin and cello along with her beloved piano.

Sister Dorothy, who has worked as a nun for much of her life, has helped nurture some incredible talents down the years, such as Neal Peres Da Costa who was head of the keyboard section at the Sydney Conservatorium before becoming a professor of Historical Performance at Sydney University.

MEMORIES: Sister Dorothy and Matt McLaren revisiting their lessons. This is the same piano from his childhood lessons.

MEMORIES: Sister Dorothy and Matt McLaren revisiting their lessons. This is the same piano from his childhood lessons.

It was a similar story for former Australia’s Got Talent contestant Matt McLaren.

She was thrilled to see the vision-impaired Denman boy achieve so much, as he now teaches at the University of Newcastle and performs with the Conservatorium of Music in the coastal city, too.

When asked how proud she was seeing her former pupils achieve so much, Sister Dorothy gave a humble answer that spoke a lot to who she is as a person.

“I thank God for the gift he’s given me to be able to help these students,” she said.

FLASHBACK: The front page article featuring a young Matt McLaren with Sister Dorothy in 1992.

FLASHBACK: The front page article featuring a young Matt McLaren with Sister Dorothy in 1992.

Despite giving up teaching, she’s still keen to play at events and for leisure, and revealed who her favourite artist has been throughout her 75 years of performing.

“I love Mozart’s music,” Sister Dorothy said.

“When I was studying for my diploma I chose a Mozart piece to do.

“It had about 18 pages but I loved doing it.”

It’s certainly been a long career for Sister Dorothy.

And, there are sure to be plenty of pianists in the region and beyond who will look back on their lessons with her and be thankful for all the wisdom she’s been able to pass on over the past 60 years. 

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