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Lorna Cooke deVaron (Choral Conductor)

Born: January 17, 1921 - Western Springs, Illinois, USA

The American choral conductor and music pedagogue, Lorna Cooke deVaron, was born in Western Springs, Illinois, daughter of Vernon Walter and Hazel Mildred (Watts). She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Wellesley College in 1942, where she studied theory with Nadia Boulanger and her Master of Arts degree from Radcliffe College in 1945. At Radcliffe, she studied conducting with George Wallace Woodworth; choral composition with Archibald T. Davison, and composition with Walter Piston. DeVaron served as Assistant Conductor of the Radcliffe Choral Society, Radcliffe-Harvard choir, from 1942 to 1944. Subsequently, she became Assistant Professor of Music at Bryn Mawr College, whose choir she conducted from 1944 to 1947. Her principal conducting teacher was Robert Shaw, with whom she studied at Tanglewood. She spent two summers studying conducting.

In 1947, Lorane Cooke deVaron became the choral conductor and chairperson of the choral department at New England Conservatory (NEC) of Music in Boston. She would retain this position at NEC until 1988. During this time, she founded the NEC Chorus, which she directed from 1947 to 1988. For 34 years, from 1953 to 1986, she prepared choruses for top orchestras, most notably the Boston Symphony Orchestra who collaborated regularly with the NEC Chorus prior to the formation of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. The NEC Chorus made more than a dozen recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for RCA Victor and Deutsche Grammophone. Six of deVaron's recordings won the Grand Prix du Disque. She also received several nominations from the National Academy of Recording Arts.

The NEC Chorus also took numerous domestic and international tours during Lorane Cooke deVaronís tenure. In 1967, she took the NEC Chorus on tour to the Soviet Union, as part of the Cultural Exchange Program, for which she received the Boston Medal for Distinguished Achievement. Several European tours with the NEC Chorus followed. In 1978 she received the Medal for Distinguished Achievement from the Wellesley College Alumnae Association. In the summer of 1977, the Israeli Government invited deVaron to conduct Kibbutz choirs and to lead a choral workshop in Israel. As a result, the following summer (1978), the government invited deVaron to return, this time with the NEC Chorus, where they participated in the 30th Anniversary celebration of the founding of Israel. During the 1980ís deVaron guest conducted the Cameron Singers in Israel and the Broadcasting Chorus of Beijing and conducted the NEC Chorus on concert tours to Romania, Bulgaria, and China.

Lorna Cooke deVaron became sought after as a choral conducting teacher to students from all over the world. Also while at New England Conservatory, she mentored numerous students in the choral conducting program. Many of these students went on to achieve successful careers in conducting. Among the conductors who studied under deVaron are: Frank Albinder, Jon Arterton, Betsy Burleigh, Jindong Cai, David Carrier, Marietta Cheng, Kay Dunlap, George Emlen, Bart Folse, Sheila Heffernon, Joe Horning, John Hugo, Donald Kendrick, Susan Klebanow, Janet McGhee, John Oliver, Johanna Hill Simpson, William Tortolano, and Scott Tucker.

Lorna Cooke deVaron is one of the pre-eminent choral conductors of the 20th century. In addition to the NEC, she conducted in many other capacities. She served as conductor and teacher of choral conducting at Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood (1952-1966), where she also trained the Tanglewood Festival Chorus; conductor of the Israel Summer Festival, Zimriya (1977-1979); conductor of the NEC Camerata (1989-2001); conductor of the Longy Chamber Chorus (1988-2005); guest conductor of the Cameron Singers, Israel; guest conductor of Radio Chorus, Beijing, China (1987); Chairman of the Choral Institute of Composers Conference, summers; member of the choral advancement panel, National Endowment for the Arts; conductor, NEC Chamber Singers at Monadnock Music Festival (summers 1982-1988). She has given the world premiere or American premiere of many important works by Benjamin Britten, Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, Irving Fine, Gunther Schuller, Daniel Pinkham, and others. She also served as editor and arranger of choral works for E.C. Schirmer and Galaxy Publications.

In 1988 Lorna Cooke deVaron retired as Chair of the Choral Department of New England Conservatory. Among her many honors and awards: Honorary Doctorate in Music from the New England Conservatory; Recipient Medal for Distinguished Achievement, City of Boston (1967); Medal for Distinguished Achievement, Radcliffe Graduate Society (1972); Medal for Distinguished Achievement, Wellesley College (1978); Medal of Israel (1977); Ludi award, New England Conservatory, 1983; Harvard Glee Club Medal for Distinguished Service to Choral Music (1987); a citation from the American Choral Directors Association for Distinguished Service to Choral Music. DeVaron continues to conduct.

Lorna Cooke deVaron was married to Jose deVaron on May 14, 1944. The couple had four children: David, Joanna, Cristina, and Alexander.

Source: Lorna Cooke deVaron Collection, New England Conservatory Archives. Boston, MA (New England Conservatory Website); Wikipedia Website (November 2013)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (February 2014)

Lorna Cooke deVaron: Short Biography | NEC Chorus | NEC Camerata | Recordings of Vocal Works

Links to other Sites

Lorna Cooke deVaron (New England Conserbatory)
Boston Singers' Resource: Lorna Cooke deVaron
Lorna Cooke deVaron (Sonora Productions)

Lorna Cooke-deVaron (Wikipedia)
An Open Sing Honoring Lorna Cooke deVaron, Sunday, April 3, 2001 (Facebook)

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