She used the Sam Goody card to buy a CD player and sheet music.
"The (award) is recognition for what I have done, and also motivation for what I hope to do," she said.
Her hope is to become a professional singer and songwriter, focusing mainly on Christian music. That hope was born not long after she was.
Deanna is one of five children of Dean and Cara Tomlinson, who moved their family from Maryland to their Deep Creek Road home in Mercer County four years ago to be closer to elderly family in southern Ohio. Dean Tomlinson is a state employee involved with computer technology, and his wife is a homemaker. Actually, Cara Tomlinson is more than a homemaker. She also is a home teacher.
Homeschooled with her siblings
Deanna and her younger siblings - Paul, 6; Lydia, 4; and James, 1 - are all homeschooled; Deanna is in the 11th grade. The oldest Tomlinson child, Bradley, 18, who also was homeschooled, completed his high school education.
"I have never been to a public school, but I feel I have received an excellent education from Mom, and also when Dad had helped out," she said. "I believe you learn more one-on-one with a teacher than in a large classroom."
While she has performed well academically in her home school, it is an extracurricular activity that has long dominated Deanna's interest - music.
"I could play the piano by ear when I was 5," she said. "When my parents noticed that, they enrolled me in piano lessons."
Deanna started learning to play the harp when she was 9, and got her first harp when she was 11. She took up the violin at 14. Meanwhile, she learned other instruments, including the recorder and fife.
The Tomlinsons' home was not big enough to contain Deanna's talent and developing skills. She needed a bigger stage. She began performing concerts, and her venues have included churches all over the area, county fairs and the Kentucky State Fair. She sings Christian music, plays "sacred selections" on the piano and strokes the harp with what she calls "tea room-style" pieces.
Her style is somewhere between Groban and McBride
Asked to describe her singing style, she mentioned two of her favorites - classical music singer Josh Groban and country music star Martina McBride - and said, "I'm somewhere in between."
While she is proud of her success so far, Deanna wanted it known that her younger siblings share billing with her at some of her concerts.
"I'm not the only performer in the family," Deanna said, hinting at a musical gene in the Tomlinson blood line. "My younger brothers and sister also perform. We don't perform together. They can do their own thing, singing children's Christian songs and reciting Bible memory verses."
Over time, more and more of the music that Deanna has performed has been her own creation. Like playing piano, writing music has come naturally.
"I began writing music about two years ago," she said. "I took a three-week, music-writing course in Indianapolis, and our main assignment at the end was to compose our own song. I wrote a song I called, 'Your Will Be Done.' Writing it came easily to me."
Writing has been easy ever since. Songs have been "rolling off me," Deanna said.
Three CDs so far
She has recorded three CDs to date. On one of them, she sings 13 songs, all of them written by her. The other two feature harp music.
With two more years of homeschooled high school to go, Deanna is starting to look to the future when she leaves both home and school. Yes, the future will be based on what she's been doing the last 11 years.
"I don't plan to go to college. After I have finished my high school education, I immediately want to begin pursuing a musical career and focus on singing and songwriting," she said. "In the meantime, I'm going to be working on more CDs, and I'm planning a concert tour for next year."
While many teenagers have no idea of what careers they will be pursuing, the budding singer and songwriter has had a pretty good idea virtually since she was 5 of how her life would unfold as an adult. The title of the CD with her 13 original compositions is a confident proclamation of that feeling.
At the tender age of 16, Deanna Marie Tomlinson is able to tell people in song exactly "Who I Am."