Jazz is an art form that embraces a wide variety of musical styles performed on a wide variety of musical instruments that are less common in other genres. There have been a number of great jazz violinists, but there haven’t been too many jazz viola players, especially ones like DEBBIE SPRING who plays a five string viola.Debbie Spring.

Spring’s playing is heartfelt and technically flawless, and her songs are inflected with Latin, Brazilian, straight ahead jazz, pop, and classical music, reflecting the cultural diversity of South Florida where she lives. She released her second album, TOCAMOS, in 2023 to rave reviews. Music Man blog said, “Technically flawless… her songs are very lyrical and accessible to the listener. Her tones on the viola produce a beautiful, warm and mellow sound.”

When Spring was just five years old, her mother saw how much she loved music and began her on piano lessons. Although she was in her junior high school orchestra, she had become disaffected with the piano and started trying out other instruments. She immediately fell in love with the viola and had the opportunity to study with several renowned viola teachers.

Although she pursued her musical education at the University of Miami, studying classical music, she had discovered jazz and fell in love with Jean Luc Ponty’s playing when she heard his early, acoustic jazz violin albums. The University of Miami has a world class jazz department, and her department head allowed her to take a jazz improvisation class in her senior year. After graduating, she set out on a career playing jazz with different groups in the South Florida region. She performed with the group Ira Sullivan Strings Attached for 10 years. They recorded an eponymous album in 1983, garnering Spring positive reviews.

Spring went back to the University for a master’s degree and began writing music. She performed with her own group for a while and produced a Latin jazz fusion album, “Ocean Drive,” in 1990. Adept at numerous styles, she became one of the busiest viola players in the country. She played pop music, toured with a popular country group called The Mavericks, performed classical concerts with The Florida Grand Opera and the Santa Fe Opera, among others, and backed the famous Miami Sound Machine with Gloria Estafan. One of her favorite gigs was touring with Shakira, dubbed the Queen of Latin Music. Spring relates, “I loved playing with Shakira. Although I’ve played in all these styles, I found the formats very restricting. I’m a jazz musician at heart, and Shakira didn’t lay down what I was supposed to play. She let me improvise, and I had some of the most fun trading riffs with Shakira on stage.”

Her newest album will be coming out in 2024.