Young was a 16-year-old trumpet player when he attended the summer music program of the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts.
He took a conducting course at the camp and then had a chance to lead the student orchestra. By the time he left Greenville, Young had set his sights on becoming a professional orchestral conductor.
“It was a turning point,” Young said. “It was the first time I had actually seen an orchestra, but I knew conducting was exactly what I wanted to do.”
Twenty-one years later, Young now enjoys a successful career as conductor of the Berkeley Symphony, the Peabody Conservatory ensembles and the National Youth Orchestra-USA at Carnegie Hall.
Young, 37, returns to the Upstate to conduct the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, Feb. 29-March 1 at the Peace Center.
The program, “Rising Stars,” features works by Brahms, Bizet and the American composer Jonathan Leshnoff.
“It’s very much a homecoming to be back in the area,” Young said.
Young was born in Virginia but grew up in Goose Creek near Charleston. He earned his undergraduate degree in music education at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and then moved to the Upstate to direct the Daniel High School band for three years, 2004-07.
“I kind of toured the whole state,” Young said, with a laugh.
Pursuing a dream
At the Peace Center, Young will conduct Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 and Bizet’s Suite from his popular opera “Carmen.”
Young will open the program with “Starburst,” a spirited, highly syncopated 2010 piece by American composer Jonathan Leshnoff.
“It’s a dynamic, energetic way to start the program,” Young said. “I love new music, and Jonathan Leshnoff is a composer I admire very much.”
Young is based in Baltimore near the prestigious Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches conducting and leads the conservatory’s orchestras. In recent years, Young has been a guest conductor with the Saint Louis Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, Colorado Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Phoenix Symphony and other top orchestras in the U.S. and Europe.
Among his upcoming engagements, Young will lead the world premiere of a new opera, “Fierce,” by American composer William Menefield.
Young credits his parents, who still live in South Carolina, with encouraging his conducting ambitions.
“My parents always said, ‘Go, accomplish your dreams.’”
Young is one of the few prominent black conductors in classical music today, and he was mentored by Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony and perhaps the best-known female conductor in the world.
“Watching her navigate the orchestral world helped me figure out how to navigate it,” Young said. “I had the best people around me, people who were so positive about my talent and my ability to pursue my dreams.”
The Greenville Journal’s Paul Hyde will present a free pre-concert talk one hour before the Greenville Symphony performances. Follow Paul on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.
If you go
What: Greenville Symphony Orchestra: “Rising Stars,” featuring Joseph Young, conductor
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 29; 3 p.m. March 1 (Free pre-concert talk one hour before the performances with the Greenville Journal’s Paul Hyde)
Where: Peace Center
Tickets: $19 to $76
Info: 864-467-3000 or www.peacecenter.org