After studying Music at Birmingham University, Cathy Graham spent two years at the Royal Northern College of Music studying piano accompaniment. Fourteen years as a professional musician in Stockholm included work as a teacher, vocal coach and repetiteur with opera and theatre companies.
Returning to the UK in 1992, Cathy quickly established herself on the London music scene, working for ENO Contemporary Music Studio and Almeida Opera, and as an Artists' Manager. In 1994 she became Executive Director of SPNM (Society for the Promotion of New Music), guiding organisational change, and her tenure culminated in SPNM receiving the Prudential Award for the Arts. From 1997 to 2006 she was Managing Director of the London Sinfonietta, during which time the ensemble toured extensively nationally and internationally and saw its repertoire, profile and audience broaden and increase. She also initiated the ensemble's own record label and was engaged in leading the move to a new multi-purpose venue at Kings Cross which now acts as a permanent home alongside the ensemble's South Bank Centre artistic residency.
Since November 2006 she has been Director of Music at the British Council in London working across all genres of music on projects which create trust and understanding between the UK and the rest of the world.
She is Chair of Streetwise Opera, the award-winning charity that uses music as a means to help homeless people move forward with their lives, a Board Member of ISPA (International Society for Performing Arts), and a National Music Advisor to the Arts Council of Wales. Interests outside of music include theatre, architecture and walking.
In December 2018 Cathy was awarded an Honorary RNCM from the Royal Northern College of Music in recognition of her significant support of the UK music sector.
In 2019 she was awarded the prestigious ABO Award from the Association of British Orchestras which is presented annually to the individual or institution considered by the membership to have made the most important contribution to the orchestral life of the UK. The ABO Award is unique among the many prestigious awards and prizes in the music world because its recipient is nominated by the member orchestras themselves.
In October 2020, Cathy received the honour of OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) – as part of Her Majesty The Queen's Birthday Honours list – for 'services to music and cultural relations.'