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Debbie Cleveland receives 2018 NAfME / BHS Music Educator Award

In recognition of her excellence in teaching, performance and lifelong impact on young singers, Debbie Cleveland of Gaither High School in Tampa has been named the 2018 recipient of the Barbershop Harmony Society/ NAfME Music Educator Award.

The award was presented January 19, 2018 during  the International Youth Barbershop Chorus Festival, held at the Midwinter Convention of the Barbershop Harmony Society, held in Costa Mesa, California, in January. Her Hurricane of Harmony mixed chorus was honored with the Audience Favorite award and a Superior rating.

The NAfME/BHS award honors educators “who give students the opportunity to learn and participate in the joy and power that music education brings in uplifting the human spirit and fostering the wellbeing of society.”

“Debbie’s professional colleagues praise her consummate teaching skills, exemplary ensembles, and consistent superior ratings in all levels of adjudication,” says Joe Cerutti, Director of Outreach for the Barbershop Harmony Society. “Nominations and commendations from parents note her ability to draw out unimagined capabilities in her students. Her past students praise her empathy. The barbershop world recognizes her for her engaging stage manner and legendary vocal performances as a two-time international quartet champion of Sweet Adelines International. Debbie is in every way the ideal choral instructor and artist.”

Cleveland has spent 31 years as a choral director in secondary public schools, with all her choirs earning receive Superior and Excellent ratings each year, and with individual students achieving All-State and All-County recognition every year. Her choirs are consistently selected for EPCOT’s Candlelight Processional, the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Concert Series in NYC, and the FMEA State Convention. In a school district of 15,500 teachers, she has ranked in in the top 6% “Highly Effective” teachers every year (2011-2017) of the six-year Bill Gates funded teacher evaluation program. She is widely known throughout the world as a clinician, teacher, and faculty member for Sweet Adelines and Barbershop Harmony Society schools, and has performed in more than ten countries with her quartets.



The Barbershop Harmony Society is the world’s largest all-male singing Society, with more than 23,000 members across North America; affiliated men’s and women’s organizations in more than a dozen countries bring the total number of active singers to more than 70,000 worldwide. Through active programs in music education, publishing, performance and outreach, the Society preserves and extends the reach of a uniquely American close harmony musical art form whose roots lie in African-American communities of the South in the late 1800s. Founded in 1938, the Society now expends nearly $1 million annually in support of community and school programs that bring the fellowship, fulfillment and excitement of vocal music to a new generation of singers.

Follow the Barbershop Harmony Society on Twitter @barbershopnews and on Facebook ( For additional information, contact Brian Lynch, or 615-673- 4131.

The National Association for Music Education, among the world’s largest arts education organizations, is the only association that addresses all aspects of music education. NAfME advocates at the local, state, and national levels; provides resources for teachers, parents, and administrators; hosts professional development events; and offers a variety of opportunities for students and teachers. The Association orchestrates success for millions of students nationwide and has supported music educators at all teaching levels for more than a century. With more than 130,000 members, the organization is the voice of music education in the United States. Follow NAfME on Twitter (@nafme) and on Facebook (