Deborah J. Hamouris is a performer, composer, and songwriter; a teacher and choral director; an event producer and community organizer. Known for her work with the mountain dulcimer, an American folk instrument, she leads the Berkeley Dulcimer Orchestra, produces the annual Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering, and teaches at the Freight& Salvage Coffeehouse. Musically versatile, Deborah performs as a jazz vocalist and a traditionally influenced songsmith. Throughout her career, her work has focused on highlighting women’s issues and providing opportunities for female musicians.
Deborah has been a part of the Freight & Salvage family for eight years. She joined its faculty when it moved downtown in 2009, and she launched the Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering there in 2013. The Gathering attracts participants and instructors from across the nation, and will celebrate its sixth anniversary in May. Inspired by dulcimer legend Steve Eulberg, Deborah created the Berkeley Dulcimer Orchestra in 2014.
Through the years, Deborah has been a member of three bands: Moonrise (folk trio),The Nomadics (jazz trio), and The DulciMates (folk duo). She founded and directed community choirs such as Gaia’s Voice (1987-1992), East Bay Harmony (1999-2001),Women & Song (2002-present), and the Unconditional Love Qwire (2012-2017).From 1999 to 2001, she served as musical director for Reclaiming’s Spiral Dance,the enormous ritual held each autumn in San Francisco. She is a familiar face at the Renaissance Faire and the Dickens Fair, and she has also performed in musicals,operas, rock operas, cabarets, and plays.
Deborah’s recordings include 1 in 8 (2017) and Snapshots (2012), both with renowned guitarist Mimi Fox (2012); The Green Man, a selection of traditional songs with TheDulciMates (2012); Songs of Love, Magic, and Other Mysteries with Moonrise (2003); and The Chorus of Life with Gaia’s Voice (1990). In 1986, she recorded the album Welcome to Annwfn with her brother, Rick Hamouris. Their rendition of his inspirational song, “We Are A Circle,” has traveled around the world and is sung in languages from Hebrew to Japanese. Deborah has also been a featured vocalist on Let It Begin Now with Starhawk, Reclaiming & Friends (1997) and The Best of Pagan Song (2004).
In addition to proselytizing for the dulcimer, Deborah teaches songwriting and voice. She gives private lessons at her studio and frequently serves as an instructor for camps,community centers, conventions, and festivals. A partial list of past teaching gigs includes the San Francisco Free Folk Festival, the Northern California Women’s Music Festival, the Elderflower Women Spirit Festival, Women Making Music Camp, Redwood Dulcimer Day, Dulcimer Week in the Wallowas, Adult Camp Winnarainbow, Phoenix Fire, and Winter’s Flame. She also served on the staff of Jazz Camp West for 11 years.
Deborah earned a BA in music from CSU East Bay, and has had the honor of studying under prestigious teachers such as Eleanor Cohen, Sandy Cressman, Rhiannon, Michael Smolens, and Sally Terry. She has served her community as a staff member at the First Congregational Church of Oakland and the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists. She’s volunteered as a board member for the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America, a core member for the Spark Collective, and a program committee member for Arts First Oakland. In the 1990s, she created, curated, and produced Musica delle Donne (an annual festival featuring live performances of compositions by women)and worked at Shambhala Books (curating women’s studies publications, music selections, concerts, and talks). Since 2002, she has helped produce Sing For Your Life, a 12-hour circle-singing marathon that welcomes the New Year at Arts First Oakland.
In 2015, Deborah was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a year of successful but stressful treatment, 1 in 8 was born. It feels like the culmination of a lifetime devoted to women and song.