“Our aim is to create the next generation of citizen musicians” – Elizabeth Schurgin, Executive Director
The mission of the DC Youth Orchestra Program (DCYOP) is “music for young people; achievement for life.” Our goals are to 1.) Provide quality music instruction and performance opportunities for young people across the DC metropolitan area’s full diversity, 2.) Develop a Youth Orchestra capable of competing successfully at the national and international levels, and 3.) Instill in our students the discipline and focus necessary to succeed academically as well as musically.
Founded in 1960 at the request of DC Public Schools, DCYOP has been an integral part of the Washington, DC community fostering the musical development of more than 50,000 youth. The first youth orchestra to perform at the Kennedy Center, DCYOP has toured 20 countries, played for US presidents and diplomats, and worked with esteemed musicians such as Copland, Maazel, Rostropovich, Hamlisch, Gustavo Dudamel, Yo-Yo Ma, and Kevin Deas. The program has received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (formerly Coming Up Taller) and the Mayor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Arts Education. The Catalogue for Philanthropy selected DCYOP as “one of the best small non-profits in the Greater Washington region” for its 2012-2013 award year.
Many graduates have gone on to successful professional careers in music. Alumni include Daniel Foster, Principal Viola of the National Symphony Orchestra; Toyin Spellman Diaz, Oboist in the Imani Winds; Chris Royal, Professor of Music at Howard University; John McLaughlin Williams, Grammy Award®-winning conductor; and John Wineglass, Emmy Award®-winning composer.
Alumni have also found careers in the sciences, writing, and politics, among other disciplines including Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Honorable Cheryl Long, CEO Linda Cureton, author Tracy Chevalier and comedian Baratunde Thurtson.
DCYOP offers group lessons and ensemble training on all orchestral instruments for students ages 4 ½ to 18. More than 600 students participate in group classes, ensemble rehearsals, and performances each semester through DCYOP’s main-site programming at Eastern High School as well as DCYOP’s school partnerships. All concerts are free and open to the public. To learn more about our programs, please click here.
Who We Serve
With strong financial and public school access barriers, DCYOP is the only preK-12 program that seeks to make high quality ensemble music education available to all students, regardless of background, socioeconomic status, or ability. Our students currently represent more than 200 public, public charter, and private schools as well as a variety of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. To learn more about student demographics, please click here.