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Debra’s career is diverse, dividing her time between singing, composing, arranging, leading choirs, teaching, facilitation, and the artistic direction and production of creative arts projects. Engagement, in some form, is at the heart of the myriad of activities that define her career. Her musical style, in both singing and writing, draws from both the worlds of jazz and folk and embraces 'anything else that works'. Although based in Perth, she works between Scotland and Ireland on her various projects and performances. 


With her vocal work, she has always tried to make a connection to lyrics that will in turn will connect with the listener.The recent release of IN A SMA ROOM, an album of songs from the poems of William Soutar, very much represents this merging of  her jazz/folk style both in her vocals and the 6 songs she composed for the album.   She is currently working on a new album of original material. She also was a Celtic Connections Danny Kyle Open Stage Finalist finalist performing a mix of original and traditional songs.


Her music composition work, upwards of 70 commissions, has been mainly in the of realm theatre with film and dance projects across UK and Ireland, and includes: two seasons as resident sound designer for Perth Theatre; a commission for a Margaret Morris celebration; and ongoing work with Irish writer and director Veronica Coburn writing songs and composing soundscapes for community arts projects


Debra has shared her love of song and singing with many choirs and vocal projects. She started Craigie Community Choir in Perth in 2004 – a group which has sung and recorded with RUNRIG, performed at Celtic Connections and got to the final heats of BBC’s Last Choir Standing.  She writes all the arrangements for this acapella group.   Debra is also known for her work with Horsecross Arts delivering vocal workshops and vocal projects such as Southern Fried Voices – a project choir which supported acts such as Blue Rose Code, during the Southern Fried Festival in Perth. She also delivers vocal projects for Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust for those with long-term health conditions and is jazz vocal tutor for Richard Michael Summer Jazz School.


Her work as an artistic director and producer has resulted in leading on many large scale national events such as Remembering Loos – a national remembrance ceremony at Caird Hall in Dundee commemorating the Battle of Loos; Fusion - a celebration of community arts in Perth as part of the Perth City of Culture bid; and Holocaust Memorial Day where she was programme director for the National Event and supporting education programme.

Some random facts about Debra

  • Managed the Talent Hub for Scottish Traditional and Gaelic Music for Horsecross Arts, Perth

  • Had a song performed at the 25th Anniversary celebration of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ 

  • Ran a recording studio in Belfast

  • Mixed and mastered latest album at home studio in Perth 

  • Studied composition with composer Gavin Bryars, and during that time also sang with him in a jazz bass/vocal duo.

  • Sang part of ‘jazz singer’ in the Ulster Orchestra’s performance of Terry Riley’s ‘In C’

  • Wrote a dissertation entitled ‘Suppression of the Arts under the Third Reich’

  • Has written songs for children’s shows including ‘The Jolly Postman and Other People’s Letters’

  • Sang backing vocals on Dougie Maclean's ‘Rural Image’ tour.


















"Debra Salem is a singer in the truest sense of the word, whose approach to singing is very much an art form in itself. She doesn't just carelessly trot out a melody, but really gets inside the song and inhabits every little corner of the story, fleshing out the characters of a song and the emotions contained therein."

(Mike Wilson review from Celtic Connections 2009)

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