If you are lucky enough to know Mrs. Cavitt (as she’s called by her students), you’ll get to hear her sing — perhaps at church, or when she’s directing one of her choirs; when she leaves you a phone message, say, or when she’s reminding you of how that song goes. And sometimes, something she needs to say simply makes more sense sung.
The Seattle-based singer and educator is known for her warm, vibrant, and versatile sound, and a reverent and loving presence as a performer. Highlights from her thirty-plus years teaching and performing include singing for Rosa Parks; having her school choir sing for Nelson Mandela during his visit to Seattle in 1999 (and having him dance with them); winning the 2007 KIRO-TV Seattle Stars vocal competition; forty years of soloing with the FAME Gospel Choir at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, as well as directing their children’s choir.
Says Cavitt: “I love working with children. They are my today and my tomorrow. When someone says ‘I can’t sing,’ that doesn’t mean anything to me. I think everybody can sing. Everybody isn’t a soloist, mind you. Those are gifts. But ‘I can teach you to sing,’ is what I tell them.”
“You know how a flower opens up really slowly? I talk to kids, and slowly, even the quiet ones that wouldn’t say a word, that looked at me like I was crazy, that didn’t want to come to choir in the first place… they’ll start to sing.”
During her eighteen-year tenure at Leschi Elementary School, Debbie founded and directed the renowned Leschi Elementary School Choir of more than 100 voices. The choir has gone on to perform throughout the Pacific Northwest, including for the Seattle Sonics, the Seahawks, the Seattle Storm and the Mariners; at the first commemoration of the 9/11 tragedy; on programs with Harry Belafonte and gospel artist Kirk Franklin.
In her years directing choirs, Cavitt’s youngest singers have been four-year-olds. Now, she is thrilled to be creating a performance for the under-three set, as part of the 2020 Small Human Festival. At an October 2019 workshop performance with babies and toddlers, Cavitt drew on her formidable improvisation skills, riffing on the phrase “I love you.”
The moment she starts to sing, the babies are riveted, all eyes on Mrs. Cavitt.