Youth Musicians Revive In-Person Rehearsal, Outdoors


April 17, 2021
David Connerty-Marin | 207-831-3313 | [email protected]

Download raw video – DCYOutside Official Launch


Youth Musicians Revive In-Person Rehearsals, Outdoors

Over 200 youth musicians rehearsed “in real life” on Saturday, meeting in person for the first time in more than a year. Under a tent on a grass field.

Musicians with the nonprofit DC Youth Orchestra Program sat six feet apart—12 feet for the brass and wind instruments—under two big tents at the Takoma Education Campus. It had been 13 months since they met in person. The excitement was palpable; the students, ages 5 to 18, didn’t mind the COVID precautions—smaller groups, mandatory masks and social distancing. The brass and wind instrument players wore special masks with slits for their mouthpieces. The organization even applied CDC indoor COVID recommendations to the outdoor rehearsal experience to be as careful as possible.

“I’m glad to do it because whatever makes us able to do it safely in person is worth it,” said Hugh Shepard, a trombonist and high school senior from the Mouth Pleasant neighborhood of DC.

The official launch of “DCYOutside” comes after two pilot rehearsals in the past few weeks—one at TEC and the other under the pavilion at The Fields at RFK Campus, which will serve as a supplementary rehearsal space.

“DCYOP is a family and, like a lot of families, we have missed seeing each other in person,” said Elizabeth Schurgin, Executive Director. “Music is something that’s meant to be shared. We are so excited we’ve been able to do that and to do it safely.”

DCYOP offers lessons and ensemble experiences to hundreds of kids every year (and counts Mayor Bowser as a former student). The organization transitioned on a dime to virtual learning after the March 2020 lockdown, offering classes by Zoom, and even online ensemble rehearsals and concerts. But it came with a catch: none of the musicians could hear each other playing.

“Our kids really rose to the occasion,” said Evan Ross Solomon, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor. “We and they were determined to create high level music learning and playing experiences and beautiful concerts. We appreciate their amazing work and the support of our parents and staff.”

Even as that was happening, DCYOP staff worked for months to find the right time and the right way to come back together in person. With COVID cases on the decline and lifting of some of the restrictions, DCYOP was ready. They reached out to parents and students. Most students in the program have opted for the in-person rehearsals; for others, DCYOP will continue to offer online lessons and programming.


About DC Youth Orchestra Program

DC Youth Orchestra Program provides quality music instruction and performance opportunities to a diverse population of more than 500 young people, ages 4 to 18. DCYOP believes that every child should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and play in an orchestra that strives for excellence. Programming is primarily at the Takoma Education Campus in northwest DC, along with smaller programs in partnership with several other schools. All concerts are free and open to the public.

— 30 —