Having loved music since she was a child, Deborah A. Turner was further inspired by her music teachers during her early education. They encouraged her to try playing different instruments, though her favorite was the flute, and to not be afraid to speak up. She ultimately decided to pursue music as a career, earning a Bachelor of Music Education from Syracuse University in 1977. Two years later, she joined the Anne Arundel County Public Schools, where she served as a music educator until her retirement in 2021. With considerable expertise in general music as well as band and orchestra, Ms. Turner taught music for a variety of different grade levels in addition to overseeing the school bands and orchestras.
Over the course of her tenure with the Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Ms. Turner spent time as chair of the music department, where she provided mentorship and guidance to young and aspiring music educators. She also notably developed a music honor society for her school called Modern Music Masters. Other involvements of hers have included leading an afterschool ensemble and several local bands and orchestras. In order to stay abreast of new developments in her field, Ms. Tuner maintains professional affiliation with the Stake Music Educators Board; the Maryland Music Educators Association, where she is a past president and chair of public relations; and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., where she is a past president and secretary.
Ms. Turner considers the most gratifying part of her career to be creating a good rapport with her students, and she has remained in touch with many former students and colleagues. Another point of pride for her is how the reputation of the music program she developed has blossomed. She notes that students have transferred to their district in order to attend the program, and it is always wonderful to see students and parents alike get excited about what the program offers. A particularly memorable moment for her was having one of her students thank her in their acceptance speech after winning a concerto competition for their county, because Ms. Turner had let them switch instruments, which led to a new, deeper interest in music. That student went on to attend the University of Georgia on a full-ride music scholarship.
Standing out for her selflessness and her ability to work as a team member, Ms. Turner attributes much of her success to her passion for music, the support she has received over the years, and simply being at the right place at the right time. Throughout her career as an educator and into her work as a mentor, she strives to be a person that children trust and can come to for help and advice. For her excellence, she was nominated as a Teacher of the Year and, in 2008, was presented with the Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major Award. As she looks toward the future, Ms. Turner hopes to remain involved in the field of music education and continue to provide mentorship to the next generation of music professionals.
Much of Ms. Turner’s early inspiration can be traced back to her upbringing. Her eldest sister, who frequently babysat her and her siblings, instilled in them the importance of education, and her father was a role model for hard work and helping others as he worked two jobs to make sure their family wouldn’t want for anything. Furthermore, her parents both encouraged her and her siblings to pursue whatever they wanted, be that ballet or music or something else. Knowing she had the support of her family made a huge difference when Ms. Turner was starting out.
Today, Ms. Turner gives back that support by encouraging and supporting her 15 nieces and nephews. In the summers, she enjoys taking them on trips to broaden their horizons. She has brought them to explore various museums, taken them on the D.C. metro, and planned out fishing and camping trips as well. Above everything, Ms. Turner’s life motto is, “Believe in yourself, and do the things that make you happy.”