Deborah Waln DesForges
Founder and Artistic Director
Ms. DesForges has been teaching vocal skills to children in Florida public schools since 1974. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from W. VA. Wesleyan College and a Master of Music Education from the University of Florida. She has taught music at Glen Springs Elementary School in Gainesville Florida, since 1977, where she currently serves as the Music Teacher and Fine Arts Chair. She was selected for Who's Who Among American's Teachers, 2002 and 2005, recognized as an Outstanding Volunteer in the Arts by the City of Gainesville Cultural Affairs Board, selected for Who' Who in Education for 2005-2006, Who's Who Among American Women 2007-2007 and Who's Who in American 2010 and 2011.
Ms. DesForges has been recognized state-wide for excellence in teaching music and superior knowledge of children's choral techniques and music literature. She has presented workshops and lectures for the Music Educators' National Conference Southern Division, Florida Elementary Music Educators' Conference, the University of Florida Music Educations Department and school districts throughout Florida.
In 1994, Ms. DesForges founded the Gainesville Youth Chorus, which has become an internationally recognized touring choir. As the Artistic Director of GYC, she coordinates all artistic aspects of the organization, and works in tandem with the Executive Director to coordinate its artistic and business activities. She directs the Concertina, Concert and Touring Choirs, and coordinates the Advanced Musicians' Program, Grant Writing, and Website Teams.
Annie Johnson received her Bachelor in Music Education from the University of West Florida (UWF), and was the first African American to graduate from their school of music. While at UWF, she was active in University choirs, theatre and piano, as well as her music education studies. Upon graduation, she taught in Louisiana public schools for 5 years and at the ARC Angels Music Therapy Day Facility for special needs adults. In 1987, Mrs. Johnson moved to Gainesville, FL where she taught elementary music for the Alachua County School Board for 29 years, being named “Teacher of the Year” four times. She also continued as pianist and organist for many churches and civic organizations. She has been a radio announcer, computer processor, entertainer, and accomplished seamstress. Her volunteer work has included ALZ’s Place, The Atrium at Gainesville, and playing for many local churches. She is a member of the Gainesville Women’s Club, serving as chair of the Arts and Culture Committee. In addition to her volunteer work, she is currently the organist at St Andrew’s Church in Gainesville and teaches Art after school at Caring and Sharing Learning School.
From 2001-2005, Mrs. Johnson was a member of the Gainesville Youth Chorus (GYC) Artistic Staff. During that time, she served as our first international tour accompanist, becoming the first woman and African-American to play the organ for mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Italy. Mrs. Johnson rejoined the GYC Artistic Staff in 2020 as an Accompanist and Coach, and is also an instructor for our Concertina Choir’s Young Musicians Program.