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GEORGE YOUNG

Board President/Retired Principal
 

George Young was born and raised in the heart of Baltimore, Maryland’s inner city, a culturally rich environment that he says was a wonderful place to come of age.

His was a working-class neighborhood, where Black folks owned businesses and homes, worked, and raised their families. George lived off The Avenue, as Pennsylvania Avenue is famously known — a thoroughfare much like Harlem’s famed 125th Street.  It was the beating heart of the community, packed with an assortment of stores, restaurants, and nightclubs.  It was home to the Royal Theater which was part of the chitlin circuit, and a large representation of historic Black Churches that lined The Avenue and surrounding area.

 

He grew up listening to a rich combination of music emanating from the clubs along The Avenue where the great contemporary singers and musicians of the day performed, and the rousing sounds of gospel spirituals found in church worship. George developed a serious interest in music and an affinity for the piano at an early age. He was encouraged to pursue his musical interest by his elementary school teacher, a Black educator who had studied at Howard and whom he recalls fondly as a talented musician herself, and a lady of great knowledge and culture. 

 

George went on to attend Frederick Douglass High School, known for its academic excellence, its outstanding music department, and for its roster of famous alumni – Thurgood Marshall, Cab Callaway, and soprano Anne Brown who originated the role of Bess in the first production of George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess, among them. 

 

He didn’t venture far from home when it was time to pursue a college education. He received a scholarship to study at one of the preeminent public historically Black colleges, Morgan State University in Baltimore, where he completed his undergraduate degree in music education.  He went on to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on a scholarship, where he worked on his graduate degree in music education with an emphasis in classical piano. 

 

While George was working on completing his studies, he was also playing and adding new layers of knowledge; sharpening his skills doing club appearances and performing as a member of a band, getting the hands-on experience that gave him a rounded perspective, or as he calls it – “a universal approach to music”. He absorbed everything about music listening to artists like Oscar Peterson, Chet Baker, Zoot Zims, and Miles Davis.  He was especially interested in the contribution of Blacks to the American songbook – from jazz to Black artistry in the classical space, he made it a point to explore and as often as possible to see them perform; people like the legendary contralto Marian Anderson, classical pianist Andre Watts, the great soprano Leontyne Price, and baritone Robert McFerrin, father of Bobby McFerrin. 

For George, the world of music was a vast uncharted landscape that he needed to immerse himself in. His openness to the diversity of music styles grounded George in both the classical and jazz idiom fostering his belief that great music does not fit perfectly into any single category or genre.

Once he received his graduate degree, George, who was married at the time, moved with his wife, to New York City, a place he had dreamed of living in.  At the time of his arrival, the city was experiencing a critical shortage of teachers of color, especially in music, and he quickly landed a teaching assignment at Joan of Arc Junior High School.  It was while teaching there that he was referred by the principal of the school, to apply to a highly competitive program aimed at increasing the candidate pool of men of color in leadership roles in the educational system.  The two-year program was run by City College and offered a free master’s degree in school administration.  To his surprise, he was accepted.  Being a part of the program exposed George to the inner workings of school systems in the greater tri-state area and beyond and allowed him to observe the mechanisms that make for a thriving learning environment.  After receiving his second master’s, George was assigned as Assistant Principal at Booker T. Washington Junior High School (M.S. 54) and remained there for almost 4 years before he took on the role of full Principal at P.S. 46, an elementary school in the heart of Harlem, with some significant challenges and low standing, when he arrived.

 

He remained at P.S. 46 for 21-years and during his tenure, worked diligently and closely with his staff, advocating for the students in this underserved community, raising the school’s performance and standing, pushing it to become one of the top performing schools in the district, and at one time, in the city. As an educator and as a Principal, George always understood the importance and the value of having the arts and humanities as an integrated part of the curriculum.   For him, the arts have always been a priority because he has seen first-hand the significant impact they have on a child’s early development.  The arts are life-changing.  Under his guidance, he introduced Young Audiences New York into P.S. 46. The organization is known for its in-school arts program delivered through teaching artists residencies. 

 

George Young is the father of two children; he is a retired principal, but still actively engaged as a Delegate Board Member to the Retirement Chapter of the New York City Council of School Supervisors & Administrators (CSA), a collective bargaining unit for Principals, Assistant Principals, Supervisors, and Education Administrators, and has recently assumed the role of President of the almost 70-year-old Young Audiences New York (YANY) arts organization.