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NEC Mourns the Loss of Lorna Cooke deVaron

Mrs. deVaron was the founding Director of Choral Activities at NEC.
Lorna Cooke deVaron conducts, in a photo taken from the perspective of the chorus.
Lorna Cooke deVaron conducts while smiling and making a gesture of passion and joy.
“She was...a wildly passionate, dedicated musician, a commanding presence on the podium...” —Erica Washburn

The New England Conservatory community is saddened by the passing of former faculty member Lorna Cooke deVaron, who passed away Saturday, October 6.

Mrs. deVaron was a renowned choral conductor who served as director and chair of the NEC Choral Department for more than 40 years, 1946-1988. Under her inspired leadership, the NEC Chorus performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for over thirty years, from 1953-1986, and made more than a dozen recordings with the BSO for RCA Victor and Deutsche Grammophone.

She also mentored numerous students in the choral conducting program, many of who went on to achieve successful careers following their graduation from NEC. NEC is fortunate to be the recipient of the deVaron collection, which is housed in the Blumenthal Family Library.

Mrs. deVaron is a major figure in the legacy of NEC choruses, and she was honored with a special concert led by current Director of Choral Activities Erica Washburn.  In Erica’s words:

It is our sincerest hope as teachers that, long after our students have moved on from our instruction, we somehow found a way to gift each of them with a moment of personal self-discovery as a musician while under our tutelage; a moment that left them with a profound memory of the precise second in time in which they simultaneously connected to themselves, and their music, as they had not done before. 

Lorna Cooke deVaron poses with the NEC Chorus in a concert hall in Moscow in 1966.
Mrs. deVaron with the NEC Chorus at the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, 1966.

In the 41 years Lorna Cooke deVaron was Director of Choral Activities at NEC, she gifted thousands of her students with such remembrances. She was, after all, a wildly passionate, dedicated musician, a commanding presence on the podium, a scholar, a collaborator and colleague of the highest caliber, and a champion of new music. 

She was "Cookie" to those close to her, "Lorna" to others, and "Mrs. deVaron" to many. To me she was the woman who made my own career possible—not because she founded the Choral Program at NEC, but because at 26 years old she was brilliant and fearless, and regardless of what others thought of her and her career choice, she persisted. She laid the ground work for future generations of women to stand on podiums of their own and lead, without even realizing she was doing so, and she took every opportunity she could to remind me that no one does such things alone.

Lorna's passing marks the close of her time among us, but her legacy of choral excellence proudly continues at the Conservatory. We are fortunate to be members of her artistic  and academic lineage.

NEC is currently in discussions with the family to host a memorial event in Mrs. deVaron's honor at the Conservatory.  Further information will be shared once there are confirmed details.

From the NEC Archives

Album: Lorna Cooke deVaron photos & memorabilia

More about Lorna Cooke deVaron


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