TFA music teacher earns state award

Debi Savage received the honor for her longtime teaching career, including 31 years at The First Academy.

Debi Savage, Lower School music teacher at The First Academy, received the 2024 Music Education Service Award from the Florida Music Education Association.
Debi Savage, Lower School music teacher at The First Academy, received the 2024 Music Education Service Award from the Florida Music Education Association.
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The Florida Music Education Association has recognized Debi Savage, the music teacher at The First Academy’s Lower School, with the 2024 Music Education Service Award. This is the first time Savage has received the honor, which is awarded to longtime music educators.

Savage has been teaching music for 32 years, 31 of those at TFA, and has devoted a great deal of time to serving students and the community through music. She was nominated by school administration and accepted her plaque at the FMEA conference in January.

“It’s meaningful to me because it is acknowledging the time and effort that teachers, specifically music teachers, give to a full school day and a lot of extra curriculum hours that go into that, and I think just the acknowledge from my peers is huge,” Savage said. “When you get the acknowledgement of the efforts that go into what you do, that speaks well.”


Savage has taught general music and theater for all grade levels. Her experience is extensive. She teaches choir and several extracurricular choirs in the lower and upper schools. She directs a big Christmas program every year at First Baptist Orlando, and in the spring, she puts on a full musical with fourth- and fifth-graders. This year’s show is “Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.”

“The fourth- and fifth-graders rise to the level of what I’ve seen some middle and high schools do,” Savage said. “They do such a good job. I have about 50 students participate, and they’re all acting and dancing and really getting the experience of some really good theater. The kids are so excited, and they bring such enthusiasm.”

Outside of school, she gives private music lessons, teaches music theory to adults and has served as a worship leader in various churches she has attended.

“I’m very passionate about teaching music and exposing them to as much as (possible) in the way of genres and how music is created and how it affects our lives,” she said. “Those that seem to have a passion for it, I’m their biggest supporter and allow them to participate in as many (competitions) as they can.”

Savage said she has remained at TFA for three decades because of her great team of peers and the excitement her students have year after year.

“I love the enthusiasm that my students have,” she said. “Students that are enthusiastic about music, especially my theater students who have to make a choice between, say, an athletic experience and a theater experience. I try very hard to work with coaches so the students get the most out of both experiences.

“When you see the result of your hard work, you will be so glad you put in the hours,” Savage said. “I look forward to coming to school every day.”


Savage comes from a musical family. Her mother was a pianist, three of her brothers have been band directors for their entire careers, and her sister dabbles in music.

“I think I was born to do music,” she said. “I think God created me that way, and I love doing what I do. I love sharing it, I love creating it, I’m very passionate about it. I truly believe it’s a gift, and I think it’s our responsibility to use our gifts.”

As for being honored for her role in the community and at the school, she said she would do the work without recognition.

“It’s part of me, part of my DNA,” Savage said. “I can’t imagine not doing it.”


“Ms. Debi Savage’s passion is to share the amazing gift of music with all her students and to enrich the community by serving others through music. Debi has served at The First Academy in the Fine Arts program for over 30 years. She is committed to helping students love and appreciate the many different aspects of music.

Mrs. Savage is a graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic University with a major in vocal performance. She received her music education credits from Southeastern University. She holds a Florida teaching certification and an ACSI teaching certification. She is and has been an active member of FMEA and NAfME, as well as FATE, during her music teaching career. She currently serves as the Lower School music and theater instructor at The First Academy, along with additional roles of chapel coordinator, chorus director and theater director. Annually, she coordinates the school's musical programs, including the Christmas program, as well as the Evening at the Arts, an annual event she helped conceptualize that includes a full musical production, performances from the choir and steel drum band, and art show with work from all elementary students.

She also plays an integral role in the annual Veterans Day Celebration and Grandparents Day. In her tenure at The First Academy, she has served in various other roles within the Fine Arts department including middle school choir director, high school choir director and fine arts director.

Ongoing growth and development is a priority for Mrs. Savage. She embraces professional development opportunities that help her stay current with music curriculum and instruction. For students who demonstrate a proclivity towards one or more areas of the fine arts, she helps foster their talents through classroom instruction and extracurricular activities. For others, she constantly finds innovative ways to help students appreciate the value of music in their everyday lives.

Debi serves the fine arts community by serving as a judge for the FEMEA All-State Choir. She serves as a mentor for other fine arts faculty at her school. Mrs. Savage has demonstrated a committed focus to the fine arts throughout her career at The First Academy. One of the highlights of her school year is to bring joy and love to the memory-challenged community by taking small groups to their facilities to share songs and interact with the residents through the medium of music. In addition, she has helped to support music in local churches in the Central Florida community serving as an adult choir director, children’s choir director, and worship leader for 35-plus years.”



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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