Kristina Dervaitis has roots in Pelham
Pelham-raised Kristina Dervaitis’ midlife transition from medicine to music has resulted in her first album, which debuts this month at a concert venue in Newmarket. The OBGYN specialist has delivered thousands of babies, and currently maintains a thriving contraception/IUD part-time private practice. But gynecology is but one of her passions.
“I think my music would be classified as ‘adult contemporary,’” Dervaitis told the Voice. “Online listeners often have drawn parallels between my style and artists like Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLaughlin, Jewel, Sheryl Crow, and Adele. It’s just so flattering because these are my heroes, who have had such a powerful influence on me. Their music figured prominently throughout my life, so perhaps it’s not surprising that my music has undertones of that same genre.”
Her debut album is called Overdue…
“I couldn’t resist the obstetrical reference,” she said with a laugh. “It’s coming out on October 15, which happens to be my 46th birthday. This has definitely been a ‘better late than never’ adventure. There are plenty of stories of people — particularly women — finding themselves at midlife, and starting new chapters, and exploring new avenues, and reinventing themselves. So I guess I fall into that category.”
A proud Italian-Canadian, she still takes regular Italian lessons to keep her language skills honed. She and her husband, Barry Atack, a retired obstetrician, gynecologist and pelvic floor surgeon, love exploring southern Italy, where Dervaitis’ mother was born. She also has ties to the Lithuanian community (on her father’s side) and has visited his place of birth as well.
Dervaitis doesn’t publicize where she lives, other than to say that it’s in a beach area of southern Georgian Bay. She commutes to her medical practise in Newmarket.
“We’re sort of obsessed with being up here,” she said. “We bought our cottage in 2009, and were doing the drives in to the city, and sometimes pushing the weekend until Monday morning…and then we just decided to move up here full-time.”
The first years of Dervaitis’ life were spent in St. Catharines, but around the age of five, she moved to Fonthill with her family. She attended St. Alexander’s for elementary school, followed by Notre Dame in Welland. Thereafter, she studied at McGill as an undergrad, then attended Western in London for both medical school and residency training in obstetrics and gynecology.
“My practice began in Newmarket 2005. My husband, Barry, who I met at Western, also grew up in Niagara, and attended A.N. Myer in Niagara Falls. He’s also the drummer on my album, and adds intricate percussion arrangements to my songs.”
Dervaitis started a YouTube channel in late 2018 when she made the decision to focus her practice on intrauterine devices and access to contraception. It was a big surprise to her when she started acquiring an international viewership, with close to a million total video views. Dervaitis also has almost 1000 Instagram followers.
“It’s funny, because prior to the YouTube channel, I wasn’t on any social media. I didn’t even have a Facebook account,” said Dervaitis. “I was quite intentionally staying away from social media. But it certainly can be a powerful vehicle for education and proper information. There was, unfortunately, a lot of misinformation about contraception and medical issues generally online. So I really wanted to be a voice to provide evidence-based, factual information about the intrauterine device.”
She has always played piano, and studied at the Ontario Conservatory of Music in her youth. Dervaitis drifted away from music given the demands of her medical career, and didn’t return to it until about a decade ago.
“Life was busy,” she said. “But I bought a piano for the home, and subsequently started taking some guitar lessons. I sort of rediscovered music. I never really considered myself a singer. I remember singing in the choir at St. Alexander’s Church, but beyond that, my singing was limited to belting out tunes in the car as I was driving.”
In 2018, after having taken guitar lessons for some time, she started writing songs.
“They just sort of started flowing out of me…and I really found music to be a therapeutic tool. I decided to participate in the local arts crawl, sort of a social event with many other musicians, and I did my very first solo performance of my original material in Collingwood. After that, I took the plunge and started performing my music more regularly.”
Dervaitis had just started to get into the rhythm of performing and doing local gigs when the Covid pandemic hit.
“I didn’t want to stop sharing my music, so I decided to create an Instagram account and post some of my original songs. One of my music idols, named Emm Gryner, is a Canadian music artist and former David Bowie back-up vocalist. She found me on Instagram and followed my account. I discovered that she was offering vocal coaching, so I jumped at the opportunity to improve my vocals for live performances. It soon became clear that I wanted to pursue things in a more serious way. Gryner listened to my music and really encouraged me to pursue recording an album.”
Dervaitis and her husband purchased home recording equipment in order to prepare demos of her songs, and she subsequently recorded her album at a professional studio in the spring.
“I’m getting organized to promote the album, which was a pandemic project that snowballed because we had time on our hands to devote to it,” she said.
Prior to shifting to a private contraception-focused practice in 2019, Dervaitis was on staff as an OBGYN generalist at South Lake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket.
“It’s a medical facility that’s near and dear to my heart, so I decided that the proceeds from the concert, featuring music from the new album, would go to the centre.”
The concert venue is NewRoads Performing Arts Centre in Newmarket, which normally has a capacity of 400. Given social distancing protocols, seats have been limited to 200. Tickets are $30 each.
Her parents are deceased, but Dervaitis still has family in the Port Colborne area. She has not returned much to Niagara over the years due to her busy schedule, but took in a wine tour a couple months ago to Niagara-on-the-Lake, and loved it. She and her husband also spent some time exploring wineries in the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation of the Niagara Escarpment. “We went to Megalomaniac, and found it to be just gorgeous,” she said.
“We are all still writing our life’s story,” she said. “We each have the power to push boundaries and explore new chapters in life. I’m a big believer in pursuing dreams.”
Dervaitis’ debut album Overdue… is available to download on Spotify, Apple Music, and all streaming platforms after October 15.