by Jennifer Walker
When Carol Jean Lovette-Young looks back over the years of her life, she finds that the Peabody Institute has been a constant thread in her story. In 1971, she was introduced to the Conservatory as a 14-year-old piano student. Nearly two decades later, she was appointed to the Preparatory faculty as a Suzuki piano teacher. She also served on the Peabody National Advisory Council for many years.
Now, after working to rebuild her life following the death of her husband, John “Jay” Young, in 2020 after 30 years of marriage, Young finds herself back at Peabody as she rejoins the Peabody Institute Advisory Board—a position that she is enthusiastically embracing for her next chapter.
“When you lose a spouse, you’re left trying to figure out what your purpose is and where you want to devote your energy,” Young says. “In my mind, Peabody just kept coming back. This role on the board serves as a unique opportunity to buttress not only the overall goals of the Conservatory and the Preparatory, but to also foster enthusiasm and inspiration in the student body.”
Young’s interest in supporting young musicians comes in part from the years she spent honing her own craft. Growing up in a rural area of Harford County, Maryland, Young started taking piano lessons when she was 7 years old and soon became the pianist for her church. As a teenager she came to Peabody to study with Joyze Sutherland, then the head of pedagogy at the Conservatory. At this point, Young had to audit classes since she wasn’t old enough to officially enroll in them. She eventually went on to study mass communication at Towson University, but changed her major to music. She graduated with a degree in piano performance under the tutelage of Reynaldo Reyes.
After college, Young—who offered piano lessons in her private studio from her teenage years until she was in her 30s—began studying to become certified as a Suzuki piano teacher. This method teaches students to hear music first, then play it, and finally read it, just as they would learn spoken language. In 1988, Young was appointed to the Suzuki piano faculty in the Preparatory.
“Many times, the Preparatory is children’s first exposure to music,” she says. “Teaching there offered an extraordinary opportunity to inspire a foundation of enthusiasm and a love for music in young children from the beginning.”
In 1996, Young left her teaching position at Peabody to be available for business travel with Jay, who was the owner and CEO of Oles Envelope Corporation. This is when Young previously joined the then Peabody National Advisory Council, a position she held for several years.
Shortly after, Young found a new purpose professionally. She remembers standing at her kitchen sink in Hunt Valley, Maryland, watching the news on CNN about the mass shooting at Columbine Senior High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999, a tragedy that took the lives of 12 students and one teacher. She told Jay they had to do something. She ultimately founded a nonprofit, the American Students’ Fund, and frequently traveled to Colorado to work at Columbine leading a character education program entitled Character Revolution 13!, which she created to address the root problems of school violence. The program provided scholarships for students who were identified by their student peers as those who exemplified their school’s student-elected character traits, regardless of grade point average.
“I was very committed to this student-led program that gave students the opportunity to identify, elect, and foster the 13 character traits that were important to them throughout their school and community,” says Young, who also led this program in Baltimore City high schools for two years after her work at Columbine was completed.
Now for her next act, Young is “over the moon” to take up her role with the Peabody Institute Advisory Board. “I’m particularly interested in student life and finding ways to foster a sense of belonging and unity among the student body,” she says. “I feel like I’ve found my purpose as a single woman, and I feel very grateful for this opportunity to try to make a difference.”
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden also recently joined the Advisory Board and will be profiled in spring.