After 14 years as an all-volunteer organization on Saint Paul’s East Side, Young Artists Initiative (YAI) is proud to announce the hiring of Matt Berdahl as the company’s first paid Artistic Director!

Matthew Berdahl, Artistic Director, has been active in musical theatre, Shakespeare, National Touring Children’s Theatre, commercial work, and various other professional mediums. He has directed two YAI productions: “Mary Poppins” and “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.” He facilitates YAI’s outreach work, funded through the McNeely Foundation, visiting schools and teaching at local recreation centers, sharing the positive world of theater with youth on Saint Paul’s East Side.


Berdahl is a Minnesota-born and raised theatre professional who has performed, directed, and traveled the country working with various theaters connected with many strong communities along the way. Upon receiving his Bachelor of Arts from the Minnesota State University – Moorhead, Berdahl launched his career as an actor, performing with some of the Twin Cities theater’s staple directors and theater companies with strong ties to their respective communities. Following a bit of performing in Michigan, Berdahl made his career move back to the Twin Cities to focus on performing for youth as his primary task. Being selected YAI’s new Artistic Director brings his professional journey full circle. 


Benjamin Lacina, YAI Board Member, co-founded YAI in 2004 and served as both Education and Artistic director during the organization’s first 14 years. With a Bachelor’s Degree in K-12 Vocal Music Education and a Master’s Degree in Gifted Education & Talent Development, he is the Program Manager for Creative Arts Secondary School in downtown Saint Paul. 

Timothy Moy, YAI Board Secretary, is a senior business analyst at Delta Airlines and a proud parent of two YAI alumni.

Barbara Deming, YAI Board Chair, is a senior management consultant for the State of Minnesota, and has assisted state and local agencies and multi-agency stakeholder groups with organizational assessment and planning since 1988. She is also the proud mom of two YAI alumni.

James McCormick, YAI Board Member, is a software engineer and consultant in addition to being a theater fan and YAI parent.

Susan McCarthy, YAI Board Vice Chair, is a physician at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis and an assistant professor at the UMN Medical School.  In a previous career, she worked as a professional stage manager at regional theaters on the East Coast and in the Midwest.  She is also the proud parent of a YAI alumnus.

Laurie Mucciacciaro, YAI Board Member, is an EDI Specialist at Milestone AV Technologies, has been an active participant backstage in many YAI shows, and is the mother of two YAI alumni.

Kristin Wolla, YAI Board Treasurer, has served as YAI’s bookkeeper from when the organization was fiscally sponsored by First Lutheran Church to the current era as a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Sheila Arnett, YAI Board Member, works as a database consultant and is helping YAI to organize its multiple databases into a more unified and useful tool for staff and board members. She is also the mom of a YAI alumnus.

Seth Bovis, YAI Board Member, is a Minneapolis based musician and is choir director for Highland Park Senior High School in Saint Paul where he also conducts the Thespian Society’s musicals. Seth has served as YAI’s music director since 2017 and previously Seth was music director for Bloomington Public Schools Summer Musicals while singing with the Twin Cities Fringe Opera and Saint Paul based ensemble: Hymnos.


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