At the age of 19, Katherine Brown is well on her way to accomplishing her dreams.
She graduated from Fort Mill High School in 2007 and joined The Young Americans dance and musical group in Los Angeles. YA members perform in national and international tours and teach dance and music to children through outreach programs.
"I get to perform, teach and travel... it can't get better than that!" says Brown. "The tours are basically our way of spreading the joy of music and dance to the rest of the world, especially in school systems."
Brown attends the California Pacific College of the Performing Arts, which is part of YA. Most courses are related to performing, but students also learn about teaching so they are prepared to work with children on tour.
Before deciding to become a Young American, Brown considered double majoring in dance and biology at the University of Alabama. When a dance friend told her about YA, her plans changed.
"As soon as I heard about it, I was, like, I have to do this!"
The decision to perform comes as no surprise to mom Robin Brown.
"She has always been very comfortable on stage, she loves connecting with the people in the audience," she says. "This is what she has dreamed of her whole life."
Brown began dancing when she was 3 and spent 12 years at Eddie Mabry's Fort Mill studio, where she studied hip-hop, tap, jazz, ballet, pointe, lyrical and modern styles.
"I love every style of dance," she says. "I really consider myself a jazz dancer though, just because I think it fits my style better."
The years of practice have paid off for Brown. She was one of four dancers out of 800 awarded a scholarship by Dance Excellence, an international festival for young dancers.
"To pick out the recipients, the judges looked at personal qualities, not just dance talent, but character," Brown's mom says. "Katherine was really proud of that."
Her daughter also qualified for the International Music Outreach Tour and will leave in September to spend 12 weeks traveling through seven European countries. YA will teach the second act of their show to local children, and after three days of practice, they will perform the first act and the children perform the second for their families.
"It's great fun," Katherine says. "I did a tour in California and it's so awesome getting to work with kids."
Behind the fun tours is a lot of hard work.
"Once you are in YA you audition for every single tour, even if you've been in the group for 10 years," she says with a laugh. "During high school I'd dance like eight hours a week. And now I dance and sing like 10,000 hours a week."
Even with all the excitement of being a Young American, Brown could not pass up the opportunity to return to Fort Mill this summer and perform in the CPCC show, "Crazy For You," presented through Saturday, July 26. This is her fourth show at CPCC, where Mabry does choreography and encouraged her to audition.
Although she has dreams of Broadway, music videos and the Radio City Rockettes, Brown still has her eye on college.
"I definitely want a degree of some sort," she says, recalling her interest in genetics and marine biology.
For a young artist with both enthusiasm for academics and considerable talent, her mom put it best: "There's no telling what will happen next. We'll just have to wait and see."
Want to see the show?
Fort Mill's own Katherine Brown performs in "Crazy For You."
For tickets, call (704) 372-1000 or visit www.carolinatix.org and type "Crazy" into the search window.