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Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

December 14, 2005:

Tina deVaron ’78

On her new CD, Tina deVaron ’78 muses about raising preadolescents and teens. (courtesy Tina Devaron ’78)

Musical mom
Tina deVaron ’78 captures her motherhood journey

Feeding infants in the middle of the night, soothing scared toddlers, and picking up dirty socks are all the stuff of motherhood. After her first son was born, Tina deVaron ’78, a jazz singer and piano player in Manhattan, started getting ideas for songs about these kinds of new-mother experiences. In 1997 she performed a collection of those songs at a concert in New York. The audience’s emotional reaction convinced her that her music had struck a chord.

A year later she compiled her first set of motherhood songs on a compact disc titled If Mamma Ain’t Happy. In touching and humorous lyrics, she muses about a headstrong 3-year-old, her own sagging body parts, and the unending chores and responsibilities of motherhood in an eclectic musical style mixing blues, jazz, funk, and pop. Underlying all deVaron’s songs is an intense love between mother and child.

She has just released her second CD, titled Water Over Stones, which looks at the trials of raising preteens and teens and the need to let children find their own way. One of the songs on the CD, “Payback Time,” describes deVaron’s own dangerous behavior as a Princeton student, drinking and driving with her friends from Princeton to Boston, and her dread that her sons (Nicholas, 18, and Joseph, 15) might make the same mistakes.

Although deVaron started playing piano at age 6, guitar at 9, and writing poetry at 12, she didn’t begin writing lyrics until after she had Nicholas. She was 32 and admittedly “a late bloomer.” An English major at Princeton, she also writes pop songs, including “If I Close My Eyes,” which rose to No. 2 on Dance Radio charts in 2004. She is developing an off-Broadway show, based on her motherhood material, about five moms who meet the first day of their children’s first grade.

Her mother, Lorna Cooke deVaron, is a renowned choral conductor and the founding director of the New England Conservatory Chorus; deVaron says she “didn’t feel entitled to be a musician because the standards were so high.” But a “light-bulb moment” at Princeton convinced her that she could forge her own path: Her first solo for the Katzenjammers at 1879 Arch “stopped the show,” she recalls. “I had no idea that I had that kind of power.”

After graduation, she became a jazz singer and piano player with bands in New York. In the mid-1980s, she landed a great gig — singing standards from Johnny Mercer to James Taylor on Cole Porter’s piano at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. This winter the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan booked her to perform for mothers and their children during lunch and tea time.

As a performing artist, deVaron says, her job is to “tell the story and get out of the way.” But because the lyrics of her motherhood songs are so personal, she sometimes has to keep her own emotions in check. When “a bunch of broad-shouldered, big-chested Maine grandmas” started weeping at a concert as deVaron crooned “Come Home to Me,” about an older child who gets in trouble, she had to focus on her breathing, she says, “to get through the song without choking up.”

By K.F.G.


From “Come Home to Me”

Come home to me
And I will fix you up
Come home to me
We’ll find that coffee cup
Come home to me
Don’t have to say where you been
Come home to me
Don’t have to say anything

©Tina deVaron,

Click here for more lyrics from Tina deVaron '78