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Piano composer, inspired by northwood’s lake country, releases CD

Debbie Center composed and recorded her first album, “Harmony in All Ways,” at her home on Fifth Crow Wing Lake. Ten percent of all sales from her CD, photography and zither sheet music is donated to the Headwaters Animal Shelter. (Shannon Geisen / Enterprise)


A loon’s haunting wail.

A chickadee’s cheerful chirps.

From her lake home on Fifth Crow Wing, composer Debbie Center incorporates nature’s loveliest sounds into her elegant piano pieces.

“In Harmony All Ways” is her first album.

Center will perform at a CD release party from 5-6 p.m. Thursday, June 18 at Bella Caffé.

A portion of her CD sales goes to the Headwaters Animal Shelter.

All but one of the soothing piano reflections are original compositions.

“They are inspired by life,” Center said, sitting at the white baby grand piano in her studio overlooking sparkling lake waters.

Center and her husband moved to northern Minnesota permanently, having spent 10 summers at Fifth Crow Wing and the rest of the year in Colorado.

“One day I noticed the wail of the loon is three distinct pitches.”

She mimics the loon’s three-note call on her piano.

While kayaking with her husband one evening, they enjoyed a spectacular sunset on a glassy, mirror lake. To their delight, a pair of loons swam up and serenaded them. Center recorded the concert on her iPhone.

Inspired, she returned home to write “Dance of the Loons.” The piano piece integrates audio from that treasured evening and is included on her new album.

“My biggest musical influence was my dad,” she said.

A child prodigy violinist, Hy Shulman began touring when he was five. He died of a massive heart attack when Center was only 14.

In his honor, she arranged a solo piano piece from a song – “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” – that her father used to play on flamenco guitar.

While listening to chickadees “do their thing” in her yard, Center once again pressed the record button on her iPhone.

The jolly cheeping became the backdrop for “Song of the Northwoods Chickadees,” the third song on her CD.

“You can hear water sloshing against the docked boat in the recording,” Center said.

The album cover is a photograph taken by Center after a “terrifying storm with raging white caps on the lake and screaming tornado sirens.”

The sky filled with gorgeous hot pinks and purples. Center snapped a picture.

“It felt like a reminder to me that if you can weather the storm – as the cliché goes – there’ll be something beautiful that follows,” she said.

Center has also written nine books of sheet music for the zither.

The zither, also called a “lap harp,” is specially made by a friend in South Carolina for Center’s music company, World of Harmony.

Through sales of zither sheet music on her website, ebay and, Center’s sold over 7,000 copies in 36 countries.

Musical scores range from classics like “Alouette” to Grateful Dead songs.

Again, a portion of proceeds go to the Headwaters Animal Shelter. Center is a board member for the non-profit organization.

“They are at the mercy of donations,” Center said of the animal shelter. “It’s privately funded. No government handouts.”

To date, Center and her daughter’s own fundraising efforts have raised nearly $11,000 for the shelter.

“In Harmony All Ways” is available at 10 retailers in Park Rapids, Nevis and Walker. It may also be purchased on Center’s website: