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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Duxbury, Vt.) - Vermont-raised musician Grace Potter, the lead singer of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, returned to her high school in Duxbury Wednesday to thank educator Di Phillips. "She's had such an impact on not just me but so many students," Potter said.
Phillips is retiring from Harwood Union High School after 39 years in the music room. "It's been a wonderful ride," she told New England Cable News.
The choral instructor never forgot her student from the class of 2001, because Potter is now a rock star. The Vermonter is on a national press tour promoting her just-released Hollywood Records album, "The Lion The Beast The Beat." This summer she is scheduled to appear in major arenas and concert venues.
But "Gracie," as her favorite teacher still knows her, found time to stop by her old school to surprise Phillips and the Harwood students with a solo concert.
"I really don't know if I'd be doing what I'm doing right now if it wasn't for Di Phillips," Potter told the crowd assembled in the school's auditorium.
"I'm very grateful for that comment," Phillips told NECN after the performance. "Grace was a very talented student. I'm sure none of us ever thought she'd get to where she is, but we're so very proud of her."
"I think [Phillips] really opened up the ability to be something beyond just a singer," Potter recalled. "It's not just about singing and hitting the note; it's about the sense of community you get when you sing in a choir and blend voices."
Potter credited Phillips and her high school music department with giving her those earliest lessons in song writing, vocal control, and harmony: qualities she displays for thousands of people each week at live shows.
Retiree Di Phillips gives her standout student high marks for remembering where she came from.
"You blow me away," Phillips told Potter, as the teacher hugged her famous former student.