DeVonne Gardner is Philadelphia born, and one of twelve siblings, who at the age of three knew that she would be a singer. By the time she had graduated from high school at the age of sixteen she had sung in every choir in every school she had attended, being too shy to ever sing solo.
The summer of DeVonne's graduation, she met a woman, Mrs. June Read, a
close friend of Duke Ellington's, at a picnic at Mrs. Read's home. Though
DeVonne was having fun with friends by singing, Mrs. Read was listening very attentively, and recognized the unique talent of this young teenager. She later called Ms. Gardner to ask if she would like to audition for Duke Ellington, who had written his second "Sacred Concert". She won that audition and later toured with the Duke for eight years throughout the United States and twenty countries in Europe.
Though she was very young and inexperienced, the Duke was always
encouraging. He reminded her that "You have the most critical critics behind you (Duke and the band). He said, "If you didn't have it, you wouldn't be here." He reminded her that "You are DeVonne Gardner and don't ever forget
it!" With these words, Gardner was transformed during the concerts. One
reviewer wrote, "Soprano DeVonne Gardner has the power to bring the house down!" Ms. Gardner remained with Duke Ellington until his death, and remained with the band two years after performing with Mercer Ellington, the son of Duke Ellington.
These "Sacred Concerts" were performed in some of the world's great cathedrals and concert halls, including Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Westminster Abbey, Carnegie Hall and many others. Ms. Gardner holds the record for singing more "Sacred Concerts" than any other soprano; she is the only soprano to sing with both father and son in these concerts.
Classical studies have only enhanced Ms. Gardner's ability to sing both jazz and popular music. In recent years, this most sought-after soprano's talents have been utilized by many choirs, civic groups and orchestras. These associations have taken her to places like Israel, Jerusalem, Jordan, England, and most recently Paris and Spain. Her performances played to sold out audiences and rave reviews.
She has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Israeli Philharmonic, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Springfield Symphony Orchestra, and the Main Line Symphony Orchestra. She has sung under the baton of such conductors as
Eugene Ormandy, Zubin Mehta, Avi Ovstroski, and singer/conductor Bobby
In between her many engagements, Ms. Gardner is a vocal instructor at
the Point Breeze Performing Arts Center, the Canaan Institute of the Arts, and director of the Singers' Workshop. She is employed by the School District of Philadelphia.