Debbie Cleveland Delivers Keynote About "The Families We Choose"

Debbie Cleveland

Ahead of the first contest at BHS Midwinter Convention in Jacksonville, Debbie Cleveland delivered the Keynote.

The Lead of the 1994 Sweet Adelines International Quartet Champions, Showtime, and 2005 International Champions, The Buzz, Cleveland is no stranger to the Barbershop Harmony Society. A longtime mentor and coach to vocal groups around the world, she is also a 34-year choral director for top secondary choirs and was named the 2018 BHS NAfMe Educator of the Year. You may also recognize her as the well-known host of the BHS International Webcast host.

Opening the festivities today, Cleveland shared her story based around families, specifically the families we choose. Appropriately, she preceded her speech with a performance by her high school choir, the Hurricanes of Harmony, of "Joyful, Joyful."

Her singing started as a child with her gospel and Christian roots, singing alongside her parents and three older sisters. Life has brought her ups and downs - meeting her loving husband after difficult divorces, her struggles as a single mom, loving a son who has come through a long battle with addiction - professing that music is what kept her going. Following this deeply emotional story, the choir sang a moving rendition of "Sing Me to Heaven" by Daniel Gawthrop.

As her barbershop journey continued, she learned that the music drew people closer together, seeking a deeper connection with her and others. In this space of harmony, we choose to develop our musical family. Those who come from a dysfunctional background, new family relationships are forged here, breaking the cycle of pain and hurt. At a convention that highlights the youth and seniors of the barbershop community, the barbershop community is reminder that everyone is welcome to join in this large, extended family that represents multiple generations. 

The keynote was closed with one last performance by one of Cleveland's families of choice, her Hurricanes of Harmony, for another family of choice, the Barbershop Harmony Society and extended barbershop community: a fitting choice of "A Million Dreams" from The Greatest Showman.

With this inspiration, #BHSJAX gets underway in full force with Day One continuing with the NextGen Junior Quartet Contest and a star-studded Opening Night Concert. Tune in at 4:00 pm and 7:30 pm EST tonight to catch the action from Jacksonville, right here on FloVoice.


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