Tinamarie Nicolo-Dorfner is a Moorestown mother of three, Board of Education member and belting musician.
As a Moorestown Board of Education member, Tinamarie Nicolo-Dorfner is the essence of composed. She listens carefully with a face that gives nothing away as sometimes heated discussions at the board’s monthly meetings play out and lets her voice be heard with her vote.
Outside of the board and her work as a health-care administrator, Nicolo-Dorfner’s voice is anything but reserved. As a musician, she said she wants young girls to know they don’t have to be the demure, ingenues when performing on stage. She said women can sing hard, driving, powerful songs and make an ever bigger impact by taking ownership of these songs.
“Now for me, especially for women, I like singing guy’s songs because I like being able to gender bend, and I think right now is a good time to do that,” Nicolo-Dorfner said.
Nicolo-Dorfner said she has been a musician her entire life and still takes vocal lessons with the same Cinnaminson-based instructor she had growing up. Raised in Florence, she attended Holy Cross Academy where she was actively involved in the school’s musical theater program, through which she met her acoustic duo partner Geno Samero.
When it came time for Nicolo-Dorfner to choose her major, she heavily considered pursuing her interest in music and theater, but fearful she might not be able to sustain herself as a musician, she chose to major in English at Rutgers University. She said the major still provided her with the arts influences she enjoyed, but in her eyes was setting her up for something more practical.
She earned her master’s degree in special education at Rowan University. While studying as graduate student, she worked part time as a medical assistant. She said the physician who owned the practice knew she was conducting clinical research at Rowan and asked her if she was interested in heading the clinical research division of his practice that he was getting started. She said she jumped at the opportunity.
Nicolo-Dorfner said the work was a wonderful experience that had her interacting with nearly every major pharmaceutical company in the country, and she said as a result of working in the health-care sector, she met her husband, Scott Dorfner, who she works alongside at Jefferson Dorfner Family Medicine today. She said the pair moved to Moorestown 17 years ago because they wanted to raise their children in a wholesome community with a strong school district.
Along the way, Nicolo-Dorfner’s passion for music never dwindled, and she said she was frequently performing jazz and cabaret tunes at local spots. It was only within the last year that Nicolo-Dorfner found herself transforming into a rockstar.
Last year, Samero, who is based out of Delaware, was looking for an acoustic partner to perform rock and roll songs with and reached out to Nicolo-Dorfner on Facebook. She said she paused for a moment since rock and roll wasn’t her usual repertoire, but after their first jam session, she knew performing with Samero felt like the right fit.
The pair, called simply Tinamarie and Geno, perform at venues throughout Burlington County and the Jersey Shore. She said the pair does mostly cover songs from artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Pat Benatar, Led Zeppelin and other hard rock artists from the 70s.
She said she wanted to help fill out their sound more, so she went on the Moorestown Parents Facebook page in search of a local music teacher to teach her how to play guitar. She said a friend recommended Moorestown-based instructor Neal Petti who runs what Nicolo-Dorfner refers to as his own “school of rock.”
Petti said he puts his students in bands as a way to come together and inspire them to want to work harder for their bandmates. Today, Nicolo-Dorfner and Petti are working on developing her musicianship as both a guitarist and bassist and are practicing for a performance with her bandmates that will take place in June at the Moorestown Community House.
For Nicolo-Dorfner, playing guitar has become something of an addiction. She found herself fidgeting to play even just going a few days without her guitar on a recent trip trip to Florida. She said at this point in her life, she can’t ever foresee a time when music isn’t in her life.
“It’s almost cathartic,” Nicolo-Dorfner said. “It’s therapeutic, and it opens up your mind.”
Having seen how much music has enriched her own life, Nicolo-Dorfner said making sure the district’s music, theater and other arts programs are properly funded is something that is in the forefront of her mind headed into budget season.
She said music has a transformative power. During the day, some of her bandmates are straight-laced and professional, but with an instrument in their hands, these parents, lawyers and working professionals reemerge as rockstars connected to one another through their music, Nicolo-Dorfner said.
In a town where issues are often politicized, these conversations melt away during one of Petti’s jam sessions, which speaks to the power of music, Nicolo-Dorfner said.
“For me, music is an escape into that sort of unifying world where everyone is brought together because of their love of the music,” Nicolo-Dorfner said with a smile emerging on her face just at the thought. “I think if more people had experiences like that in town it would bring people together.”