Deborah Pelt Interviewed by Russ Lemmon, Columnist for Treasure Coast of Florida's TC Palm Newspaper


The Gifford Youth Orchestra will say goodbye to a longtime member on Saturday.


Deborah Pelt will be the center of attention at “The Senior Recital,” scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Gifford Community Center. The Indian River Charter High School senior has played the violin in the orchestra since the sixth grade. Pelt is planning to attend Howard University in the fall. She is the 10th college-bound student in the program’s history. Crystal Bujol, who founded the orchestra in 2003, says Saturday’s recital is a way to “acknowledge the achievements of our graduating senior.”


Pelt, 18, said her participation in the Gifford Youth Orchestra wouldn’t have been possible without the sacrifices made by her mother, Larrissa Thomas-Pelt. For the first three years she was in the orchestra, the family was living in Fort Pierce. The mother drove to Gifford for her job with Indian River State College (she is a program assistant for TRIO Upward Bound). On her lunch break, she would drive to Fort Pierce to pick up her kids after school and drive them back to Gifford. Then, at the end of the day, they returned to Fort Pierce.


“I really wanted them to be a part of the orchestra and the (Gifford Youth Activity Center),” said Thomas-Pelt, whose office is next to the center. The family moved to Indian River County before Deborah’s freshman year at Indian River Charter High School. “I’m really happy my mom got me involved in the orchestra,” Deborah said. “I was really shy. It helped me to come out of my shell a lot.” Thomas-Pelt is grateful for Bujol’s commitment to the program. “Ms. Bujol is like the life of the orchestra to me,” she said. “The time she spends with the kids — including things other than the orchestra — is impressive. She takes them to the beach and the movies. “She gives them that grandmotherly-type love.”


Bujol, 77, is a retired pastor of two churches in California. She moved to Florida in 2002 with the intention of finishing some books that she had started. Let’s just say things haven’t gone as originally planned. “In 12 years, I’ve written two pages,” she said. But that doesn’t mean she regrets giving other activities a higher priority. She accepted Gifford resident Annie Powell’s challenges of starting a youth orchestra, a tennis program and a community newsletter. “I became Annie Powell’s ‘I can do that’ lady,” Bujol said. Bujol says the Gifford Youth Orchestra is No. 1 in her heart. “I absolutely love the work I’m doing with these kids,” she said. “I am pleased beyond my wildest dreams.” Bujol takes great pride in seeing youths such as Deborah Pelt blossom while in the program. “It helps you become a more well-rounded person,” Deborah said. Her mother agreed.


“I knew there was something special about the Gifford Youth Orchestra,” Thomas-Pelt said. “It has exposed my daughter to a whole new way of life. She has performed at some pretty exclusive places and events.” Deborah says she’ll always remember a performance at Pointe West. “We played for Gov. Charlie Crist,” she said. “That was a big ‘wow’ moment for me.”


Joan Haar has been music director from the beginning of the program. There are two music teachers, Jeni Goldsmith and Linda Spidak.  About 120 youths have participated in the orchestra through the years. Bujol said the number would be higher, but some parents can’t afford to pay the $5 per lesson. “It’s still considered a luxury on the parents’ budget,” she said.


Deborah has two younger siblings, sister Zipporah (11th grade) and brother Luke (sixth grade), in the 24-member orchestra.  “They really like being a part of it,” Thomas-Pelt said.


Deborah — who plans to pursue a degree in the medical field at Howard — is looking forward to Saturday’s recital.  Not only will she play with the orchestra, but she’ll also sing “The Greatest Love of All.” Meanwhile, the adults who know her will be beaming with pride.


Russ Lemmon is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects his opinion. Contact him at 772-978-2205 or


Contact Us

The Gifford Florida Youth Orchestra
8 Vista Gardens Trl #102
Vero Beach, FL 32962


 Mailing Address:P O Box 691166

Vero Beach, FL 32969-1166
Phone: +1 772 / 778-5118



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November 5, 2016

"The Magic of 13 Years"


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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Gifford Youth Orchestra

Opens the meeting for

The Indian River County

School Board meeting



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