Executive Director, Boston Conservatory at Berklee
Cathy Young brings more than 34 years of experience as an artist and educator to her role as executive director of Boston Conservatory at Berklee. During the course of her career, she has been a performer with leading American dance companies, the artistic director of her own dance company, a nationally recognized choreographer and teacher of jazzdance, a professor of dance, cofounder of a college dance program, and the dean of dance at Boston Conservatory at Berklee.
Young grew up on a farm in a central Pennsylvania coal mining town. She earned her B.A. in sociology and women’s studies magna cum laude from Harvard University, where she was first exposed to dance as an art form through an African dance class. Having fallen in love with dance for its physicality, communicative power, and ability to create community, she made the decision to pursue it professionally, leaving former dreams of law school behind and embracing the joys and challenges of a life as a performing artist.
Young spent the next 20 years building her career as a dancer, choreographer, artistic director, and teacher of dance. She has worked with leading artists in American contemporary dance and jazzdance, and has created a choreographic body of work and directing through her own company, Cathy Young Dance. Young’s choreography has been commissioned by universities and professional companies around the country and abroad, and presented in prestigious venues, including the Joyce Theater and Dance Theater Workshop in New York City, Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Her work has been supported by grants from foundations such as the Jerome Foundation, McKnight Foundation, and Minnesota State Arts Board. In addition to her work in concert dance, Young has also created choreography for theater, opera, commercials, industrials, and film. As a teacher, she has conducted artist residencies at more than 30 colleges and universities, and has been on the faculty of numerous national and international dance festivals, including Bates Dance Festival, Florida Dance Festival, and the Open Look Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Young’s work in dance has always been inspired by a deep love of music and a desire to create and perform choreography that both illuminates and is illuminated by music. One of her seminal works, Journey/Sanctuary, was an evening-length collaboration with an interdenominational, racially diverse gospel choir, and brought 50 dancers, actors, singers, and musicians together on stage to explore the stories, emotions, and faith expressed through gospel music.
After 20 years as a working artist, she returned to academia to earn her M.F.A. in dance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and accepted a position as an associate professor of dance at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, where she cofounded the dance program, designing a full curriculum, implementing a dance major and minor, and creating a student dance company. Young was named chair of the Theater and Dance Department, and focused her efforts on engaging students and faculty across the campus in all academic disciplines. She has also published numerous articles and reviews in scholarly journals, and is considered an expert in jazzdance pedagogy and history.
From 2011–2017, Young led the Dance Division at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, first as division director and then as dean. Under her leadership, the Dance Division was recognized as the top contemporary dance program in the United States. Upon joining the Conservatory, Young focused on building and supporting diversity within the division’s curriculum, artistic programming, and student and faculty population. Her efforts helped grow the division from 60 to 140 students, and introduced new faculty members with an impressive variety of professional experience and honors. She also revamped the program, implementing a comprehensive and forward-thinking curriculum designed to prepare dance artists for 21st-century entrepreneurial dance careers.
Young’s emphasis on diversity, innovation, collaboration, and community as core values—expressed through the Dance Division’s curriculum, training, and artistic productions—have attracted the top students, faculty, and guest artists in the field. Her belief that conservatory dance training must expand beyond traditional classicism led the division to become the first conservatory B.F.A. dance program in the United States to include the applied and academic study of hip-hop dance s an essential aspect of the curriculum. Young has also established prestigious partnerships with both national and international leading arts organizations, including a teacher certification program in partnership with the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) in London; Boston Conservatory at Berklee remains the only school in North America to have this partnership with RAD. In addition, Young has overseen the development of the first-semester abroad program at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, which enables Dance Division students to spend a semester at the Central Academy of Drama (CAD) in Beijing, China to study both contemporary and traditional dance.
As executive director for Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Young will focus on identifying and building new relationships, both domestically and abroad, that will strengthen the Conservatory’s offerings and raise awareness of its unparalleled value. In addition, she will work closely with Berklee President Roger H. Brown and colleagues to develop new, innovative programs and student opportunities to shape the Conservatory’s ever brighter future as part of the larger Berklee organization, which also includes Berklee College of Music’s Boston and Valencia, Spain, campuses, and Berklee Online.