Deborah Van Kleef

Kyle Lamoreaux

Deborah Van Kleef wants everyone to know that music is not something you buy; it’s something
you do. She has taught guitar since 1995 and ukulele since 2008 at Musicologie Shaker Heights
(formerly the Fairmount School of Music), specializing in working with beginners age 5 to adult.
Children ages five to nine follow a guitar and ukulele curriculum Deborah has developed. With
students of all ages she emphasizes good technique and practice habits as a foundation for
achieving their musical goals. Her approach to teaching is influenced by 15 years of classical
training, a lifelong passion for folk music and several years as the mother of a Suzuki violin
Deborah’s first instrument was flute, which she studied with members of the Cleveland
Orchestra and in the Wind Performance Program at York University (Canada), where she
earned a B.A. in English literature. She studied guitar at Cleveland’s legendary Goose Acres Folk
Music Center, and later with Kevin Richards, founder of Musicologie Shaker Heights, who
suggested she give teaching a try. Along the way she also picked up Appalachian dulcimer and
penny whistle. She has received further training at the Augusta Heritage Center and at
numerous workshops taught by leading folk musicians, including John McCutcheon, Ysaye
Barnwell, Cathy Fink and Holly Near.
Deborah worked for over a dozen years as a teaching artist in the Cleveland Municipal School
District, integrating American roots music with language arts and social studies curriculum. She
was a staff member at the Ruffing Montessori School summer program for 18 years, where she
taught guitar, songwriting and simple instrument-building, introduced children to dulcimer and
autoharp, helped establish group singing as a daily camp activity, and led a jug band.
She has performed at concerts, coffeehouses, contra dances, festivals and special events,
throughout Ohio and in New York and California. Her song, “The Great Fast Food Strike,” was
performed by Pete Seeger at a historic Carnegie Hall concert marking the 50 th anniversary of
Smithsonian Folkways Records. She and the song were featured on “Woody Guthrie: Hard
Travelin’,” a documentary produced by WCPN-FM, which aired on over 160 public radio
stations nationwide. She released a CD, “Work in Progress,” in 2008.
Deborah and her husband live in Cleveland Heights and have an adult son.