Born and raised in Brooklyn, Debbie grew up listening to Carole King, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, and Steely Dan, while playing Bach and Chopin on the piano. As a teenager she explored the fertile ground of the Great American Songbook. Introduced to folk, funk and fusion by her older brothers, she studied the great divas of the jazz and pop worlds developing an intense interest in jazz harmony. Music was the ultimate refuge.
Debbie earned a degree in English Literature from Harvard University and subsequently embarked on a career in music. She studied jazz intensively at Berklee College of Music, meeting her lifelong collaborators, and honing the piano skills that she continues to display as a singer-songwriter. At first her songwriting and singing came as an afterthought, but then it took center stage.
In her performing and recording life, Debbie had the good fortune to work with acclaimed jazz musicians who share her interest in eclectic,, high-quality songwriting — people like drummer Brian Blade and the late, great bass player Jeff Andrews. Moving back to Brooklyn in the 90’s, she lived in a “jazz den” with some of the city’s most promising jazz musicians, including saxophonists Seamus Blake and Terry Deane, who became her 1st husband, drummer Marc Miralta and pianists John Stetch and George Colligan. At that time, Debbie gigged extensively in and around New York City and beyond.
Debbie’s self-titled debut CD came out in 1999. Produced by bassist Jeff Andrews and featuring Wayne Krantz, Joshua Redman, Brian Blade, Rodney Holmes, Phil Markowitz and more, the album, licensed by ESC Records (and re-named ‘Hit The Rewind”) was released in Europe in 2004, garnered much praise: “I wish all debuts could be as strong as this one. And it’s not due just to the stellar sidemen...it's the heart and soul of the artist's music and vision. In a word, soul,” wrote Mike Bannon in Jazz Review.com.
In June 2007, Debbie released her second album, the richly rewarding Grove House, on RKM Records, a label run by the illustrious jazz saxophonist Ravi Coltrane. Once again, she brought warmth, sophistication and a rock-n-roll edge to the table, leading another cast of fine musicians including Brian Blade, Elie Massias, Richard Hammond, Robin Macatangay, Tony Mason, Chris Cheek and her husband Jim Whitney.
In 2008, Debbie and Jim welcomed their son Julian to the world. Recording and touring took a backseat to Debbie’s life as a Brooklyn mom.. She taught piano and became involved with her son’s elementary school, founding the PS 130 Music Committee with other PS 130 musician parents. Debbie also co-founded the PS 130 Music Festival which is now an annual event.
Just prior to the pandemic—around the time her son turned twelve, Debbie knew it was time to face the music. “The songs were calling me. I needed to open up about my life before my second marriage and motherhood.” Debbie entered the studio again with twelve songs that spoke of the trauma and heartbreak of her past. Joined by Christopher Thomas on bass and Brian Blade on drums, Red Ruby Stars is the result, an expansive, upbeat and powerful new album distributed by Modern Icon Recordings/Ropeadope Records released on September 17, 2021