Lorna Cooke deVaron, choral conductor, was born in Western Springs, Ill., on January 17, 1921, daughter of Vernon Walter and Hazel Mildred (Watts) Cooke. DeVaron earned her BA from Wellesley College in 1942, where she studied theory with Nadia Boulanger and her MA from Radcliffe College in 1945. At Radcliffe, deVaron studied conducting with G. 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 1942-1944. From there, deVaron went on to conduct the Bryn Mawr College Choir from 1944-1947. She spent two summers studying conducting.
In 1947, deVaron became the choral conductor and chairperson of the choral department at New England Conservatory. She would retain this position at NEC until 1988. During this time, the NEC Chorus performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for over thirty years, from 1953-1986. The NEC Chorus made more than a dozen recordings with the BSO for RCA Victor and Deutschegrammophone, some of which earned the Grand Pris du Disque or the National Academy of Recording Artists award. The Conservatory chorus also took numerous domestic and international tours during deVaron’s tenure, including trips to Europe, the Soviet Union, Israel, Puerto Rico, and China.
Also while at New England Conservatory, deVaron 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.
In addition to the Conservatory, deVaron conducted in many other capacities. She served as conductor and teacher of choral conducting at Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood from 1952-1966; conductor of the Israel Summer Festival, Zimriya, 1977-1979; conductor of the New England Conservatory 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, New England Conservatory Chamber Singers at Monadnock Music Festival, summers 1982-1988, deVaron also served as editor and arranger of choral works for E.C. Schirmer and Galaxy Publications.
Among the awards that deVaron has received are 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, 1987.
Lorna Cooke deVaron was married to Jose deVaron on May 14, 1944. The couple had four children: David, Joanna, Cristina, and Alexander.
The Lorna Cooke de Varon collection consists of 11 record cartons, and 5 flat boxes. The collection consists of paper records, scrapbooks, photographs, and a few artifacts.
The Lorna Cooke deVaron collection has come to the New England Conservatory Archives in three phases. Three boxes were initially transferred from the Performance Services Archives in Fall 2006 and these were processed by Simmons intern, Amy Conway. In Spring 2008, three more boxes containing chorus materials were transferred to the NEC Archives and were processed by Simmons intern, Steven Booth. These two collections were integrated by Archivist, Maryalice Perrin-Mohr. Then several more boxes were donated to the NEC Archives by Lorna Cooke deVaron in 2009. All of these boxes had been stored at deVaron’s house in Cambridge, MA. In addition some of the Copland photographs were transferred from Public Relations to this collection in 2010. In early 2012, deVaron donated more programs, most of which were duplicates, as well as another scrapbook of materials from 1952-1957.
Access to the Lorna Cooke deVaron collection is by appointment through the Archivist or Director of Libraries. There are no restrictions pertaining to this collection. Click here to view selected items from this collection.
All copyrights to this collection belong to the New England Conservatory. Permission to publish is through the Director of Libraries. This collection should be cited as the Lorna Cooke deVaron Collection, New England Conservatory Archives. Boston, MA.