Mrs. Cleveland is the Chorus Director at Vivian Gaither High School located in the Northdale area of Hillsborough County. Ms. Cleveland received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Florida, as well as a Master’s in Education from the University of Tampa. Mrs. Cleveland has spent 33 years teaching as a choral director in the county. Now in her 21st year at Gaither High School, her school ensembles Showcase (show choir) Gaither Men's Chorus, Gaither Women's Chorus and Gaither Concert Chorus with have consistently received Superior and Excellent ratings during their annual music performance assessments. In particular, wIth this years music assessment, Gaither's Concert Chorus received straight superior ratings with the stage judge, Bill Renfoe stating the chorus was "Exquisite!"
Mrs. Cleveland's students are afforded many opportunities to perform for the public allowing the students to earn service hours for use when applying for Bright Futures scholarships. The chorus auditions and performs annually at EPCOT’s Candlelight Processional and was selected to participate in the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Concert Series in New York City. Her students perform at the Florida Music Education Association State Convention and individuals have also been selected to perform at All-County and All-State each year.
During the 2018 school year, Mrs. Cleveland created a new mixed-voice barbershop chorus at Gaither known as the Hurricane of Harmony. The chorus consists of 70 of her top students that perform and compete at the international level. For their first performance the Hurricane of Harmony performed at the International Youth Barbershop Chorus Festival in Orange County, California. The students won the hearts of the sold-out audience with selections from the musical “Grease,” with impeccable singing, vivid costuming and high-energy choreography. The chorus was named Audience Favorite, earned a SUPERIOR rating, and won their category. On January 26th of this year, the Hurricane of Harmony performed selections from the musical “The Greatest Showman.” in the Next Generation Barbershop Junior Chorus Invitational at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. Once again, the Hurricane of Harmony swept the competition taking home a SUPERIOR rating and Audience Favorite.
In addition to her work in Hillsborough County, Mrs. Cleveland mentors and trains singers around the world, from barbershop groups to gospel choirs. She is an active guest faculty member at education workshops in over half of the regions in Sweet Adelines International (SAI), and is also a clinician for youth harmony camps across the country.
In 2018, Mrs. Cleveland, received the Music Educator of The Year award from the Barbershop Harmony Society and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).
Eliza Stoney, Class of 2017. “Mrs. Cleveland has inspired me more than anyone else I’ve ever met. Her passion and drive is unmatched by anyone and she has always encouraged me to do my best in all I undertake. I would not be the musician I am today if it was not for her love and guidance.”
Jennifer George, Chorus Parent. “Not only does Mrs. Cleveland lead an amazing choral program which consistently performs at a superior level, but every student who participates in her program leaves with a heightened level of appreciation for music not just as an entertainment medium but as a tool for bringing people together and enriching lives. Mrs. Cleveland has allowed my daughter to have many opportunities that she wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”
Susan Raabe, Chorus Parent. “ I have had the privilege of participating as a volunteer with the Gaither High School Vocal Music Program under the direction of Debbie Cleveland for the past 8 years. All three of my children went through the program and were greatly enriched by the experience.
They were given opportunities that most kids will never even dream of and as a result their passion for music and their ability to discover new applications of music has enabled them to be a part of enriching not only their own lives but making a positive impact in all areas of our community.”
Bryce Padgett, Class of 2019. “In Mrs. Cleveland’s chorus experience, students are given opportunities in leadership, student conducting, leading vocal warm-ups & exercises, leading sectionals, choreographing and even writing their own arrangements of songs and performing them. All students are taught to respect each other and to encourage one another. She instills in all her students a love of music and a sense of respect and encouragement for all musicians.
Mrs. Cleveland leads her students by example to always be positive and encourages all students to step outside their comfort zone to discover their potential. She even spends extra time after school and on weekends to help her students prepare for performances & competitions. She truly inspires a lifelong love of music and enables students to spread that gift to others making this world a better place for all!