Carolyn Phillips Cusson

Dancing Career

Born in Montréal, the daughter of an RCAF pilot, Carolyn spent almost half of her childhood before the age of ten in Europe, where she began ballet and piano lessons. Upon her family's return to Canada, Carolyn was 11 years old before she had her first Highland Dancing lesson. Maya Dillon (Vandenburg), in Ottawa, was her first teacher. In spite of her late start, she won her first Ontario Championship at age thirteen, and went on to become Eastern Canada Champion, Great Lakes Champion, Western U.S. Champion, runner-up BC Champion, Canadian Interprovincial Champion and this only time she had a chance to dance in Scotland before retiring from competition, was a World Championship finalist. She competed and won titles until she was 25 years old. Being an air force brat whose family took her from Ottawa to Toronto, then to British Columbia, had its benefits. Carolyn considers herself very fortunate to have trained with many of the Canada's greatest Highland teachers during her competitive career, including: the late Gladys Forrester, Margo Coutts, the late Evelyn Murray, Donna Jean Ritchie (Ostrander), the late Judith Schey, Dell Hill, Gail Danysk, Heather Jolley, and the late Dorothy Christie.

Carolyn is a Life Member of the British Association of Teachers of Dancing and is on the Judges' Panel of the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing. Having moved from Toronto, as a former Ontario Provincial Highland Dance champion, and Canadian Inter-Provincial Runner-Up Champion, she ran a dancing school in Prince George, BC, for fourteen years, since she was 17. During that time she trained many provincial and national champion dancers, and, together with her mother, Donna (Macdonell) Olsen, founded the Central Interior Highland Dancing Association in 1975, an association which is still active today in more that one interior BC community.

Carolyn adjudicates dance competitions snd festivals internationally, teaches her own students at the Glengarry School of Celtic Dance and conduct workshops. She is frequently called upon to be involved with both the business and artistic facets of community and arts projects.


Business, Academic and Community Career 

After graduating from the University of BC, Carolyn became an entrepreneur, and an investment advisor, in practice with major investment firms in Vancouver, and Vancouver Island, for 18 years. Following that, she began working as a management consultant, focussing on cultural organizations and beneficial companies.

She completed an MBA with a specialization in Leadership at Royal Roads University in 2016, a coaching certification at Schulich School of Business, York University, and became a Management Consultant (CMC pending). She currently works with leaders and organizations, specializing in building and strenghtening their unique culture, branding and their sustainability.

Her academic research on the topic of leadership and the sustainability of cultures and organizations has garnered much interest in the music festival world, and in academia. Carolyn is a Faculty of Management sessional instructor at Vancouver Island University and at Camousun College, Victoria on Experiential, Cultural, and most recently, Indigenous Tourism.   

Carolyn's community, business and artistic endeavours have been extensive. She has been a trust company delegate for the Estate Planning Council of BC. Carolyn served for eight years as corporate fundraiser, then a Governor, on the Board of Directors for Ballet British Columbia, Canada's fourth largest professional dance organisation. She has been a top corporate fundraiser for the United Way. She was appointed Artistic Director for the BC Summer Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies 2002. As a presenter, she has hosted a Vancouver TV business show, and acted, sung and danced in many musical theatre productions and on television. She is currently on the Board of the Victoria Highland Games and Dance Director /Choreographer for Pacific Tattoo, whose inaugural tattoo was July 2012.

She welcomes opportunities to guest present at conferences on topics related to her areas of expertise and passion: Leadership Characteristics and the Success and Sustainability of Cultural Festivals and related organizations. 


 Carolyn Phillips Cusson
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