Debra Terry Spencer

Violin, Viola Teacher

Debra Terry Spencer

SAA Member


Canton, MI
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A solo performance at Carnegie Hall and tours around the world before the age of 19 was an auspicious start to Debra’s love of performing. Growing up, Debra had many chances to display her talent. As a recitalist and soloist, Debra has performed with numerous orchestras. As a teacher, Debra instills the love of music in her students.

Debra began learning the violin by the Suzuki method under the careful guidance of her music teacher and mother, Cheryl Terry. Debra’s father was in the Army, which required the family to move around during Debra’s younger years, including overseas, where Debra attended extensive violin workshops in Germany, Ireland, and Belgium.

While living in Germany with her musical family, Debra was invited to perform with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra at the tender age of 6. In her later childhood years, she also had the opportunity to add tours of England and Puerto Rico to her experiences with the Ottawa Suzuki Strings of Ottawa, Kansas.

Debra’s most magical moment to date is her solo violin performance at Carnegie Hall in 1998 during a performance of her Coronado High School Symphony Orchestra. While attending high school, this same orchestra toured Japan on a week excursion that has left its mark in her memory.

The experiences only begin there. She has many performances to her credit including her solo at age 9 with the Rolla Community Symphony of Rolla, Missouri, numerous recitals, and concerts with the Texas All-State Philharmonic Orchestra and the El Paso Symphony Orchestra during her late high school years in Texas. During this period of her life she also worked with a quartet that performed at charity events for the not-for-profit Hospice of El Paso.

While attending college and studying with Dr. Walter Verdehr at Michigan State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance in May 2003, she performed with the MSU Symphony. During her time with the symphony, she added her talents to a concert of the Grammy award winner Peter Nero, performed with Gershwin protégé Michael Feinstein; the composer of A Chorus Line, Marvin Hamlish; and Woody Guthrie’s son Arlo Guthrie. She also had the good fortune to record on Koch International Classics Records in 2002 and 2003.

Beginning in her college years, Debra soloed with the Michigan State University Concert Orchestra and has played with many orchestras in Michigan including the Jackson Symphony, the Midland Symphony, the Saginaw/Bay City Symphony, the Lansing Symphony, and the Flint Symphony. She also performed two post graduate recitals in Texas and Michigan respectively. She enjoys playing as a regional contract musician with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and has lent her talent to the phenomenal vocals of Josh Groban. She also recently joined a tour of The Mikado and Pirates of Penzance with the Gilbert & Sullivan Players of New York in the spring of 2011.

During her Master of Music studies at the University of New Mexico, where she studied with Carmelo de los Santos, she performed Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in g minor with the University Symphony as a winner of the university’s solo competition. Debra has had master classes with Almita Vamos, Donald McInnes, Paul Kantor, Brian Lewis, and Simon Fischer. She graduated in 2010 with a Master of Performance, as well as her long-term Suzuki Teacher Training certification, for which she studied with the world-renowned teacher/teacher-trainer Susan Kempter.

To continue her studies, Debra has worked intimately with Dr. John Kendall; Abraham Chavez Jr, conductor of the El Paso Symphony Orchestra; the Associate Concertmaster of the El Paso Symphony Orchestra, Michael Goldman; Dr. Walter Verdehr, violin professor at Michigan State University; Andrew Jennings of the University of Michigan and Concertmaster of the Flint Symphony Orchestra; and Dr. Carmelo de los Santos at the University of New Mexico.

Debra currently lives in Canton, Michigan and enjoys occasional solo performances, chamber and orchestral performances. She has been the Concertmaster of the Dearborn Symphony since 2017. She is also a contracted member of the First Violin sections of the Flint Symphony and Saginaw Bay Symphony as well as a rotational violinist with the Ann Arbor Symphony. She teaches violin using the Suzuki method in her own private studio in Canton.