‘Rising’ to the Grammys
Terp DJ Is First Female Producer to Earn Nomination—and Win—for Best Remixed Recording
With a list of collaborators such as Cyndi Lauper, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Madonna, it might not seem surprising that Tracy Young ’97 earned a Grammy nod. But it was a first not only for her, but for women in the recording industry.
Producer, remixer, DJ and composer Young was the first female producer to be nominated—and win—for “Best Remixed Recording” since the category’s introduction at the 1998 Grammys. Today, she took home the victory for “I Rise (Tracy Young’s Pride Intro Radio Remix)” performed by Madonna.
“I cried like a baby. I was a blubbering idiot,” Young said of her reaction to the nomination. “Maybe more women will see that it is possible.”
The recognition marks the pinnacle of a winding music career. Young’s grandfather worked for the government radio network Voice of America, and although he focused more on the behind-the-scenes engineering side, he helped spark her interest. After a year at Radford University, where she frequently DJed at fraternity parties, Young transferred and delved into radio as a speech communication major at UMD, bouncing between campus and WPGC Radio.
But despite her on-air success as she worked her way up from intern to music director, Young encountered sexism when she tried to expand into the male-dominated nightlife scene.
“When I would pass my tape around D.C. in nightclubs, I got a hard no,” Young said. “People would tell me, ‘You have to pick another job. Girls don’t do this.’”
The rejections only hardened her resolve, and eventually, a fellow Terp took notice. Ingrid Casares ’89, a prominent club owner in Miami, was looking for someone to DJ at her club, Fat Black Pussycat, around the time of Young’s graduation. Casares’ sister, a George Washington University student at the time, knew of Young from local radio and suggested her. She took a listen and was sold.
“She could either DJ a wedding or DJ a nightclub with 2,000 people in it,” Casares said.
Their partnership grew from there, with Casares hiring Young for more gigs in Miami and introducing her to big names in the industry—including her best friend, Madonna.
“I don’t think I said too many words when I first met her—I was too nervous,” Young said. But the pop icon was a fan of her work, and to date, Young has produced 14 remixes with Madonna and even spun at her 2000 wedding to Guy Ritchie. “If it weren’t for Madonna, I don’t know if I would have lasted as long as I have.”
The pair’s latest collaboration, the award-winning “I Rise” remix, adds an up-tempo dance beat to a song that Young calls “powerful in its original form,” with lyrics that create an anthem for the LGBTQ community. It soared up Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart, adding to Young’s more than 60 No. 1 hits.
Now with a Grammy win to add to her resume, she’s not stopping there. Young—whose success was celebrated in Miami on Dec. 11 with its declaration as Tracy Young Day—works at iHeartRadio and is getting into composing for film and TV.
“I think women have to not be discouraged to go after those jobs,” Young said. “There has to be more women doing music—engineering and production and whatever element of music you want to pursue.”