Get to Know DCYOP: Sydney Ebersohl

DCYOP has a proud tradition of welcoming alums back to the fold over the year: Principal Conductor, Kenneth Whitley, violin and viola teaching artist, Ken Giles, Program Director, Rashida Coleman, and Board President, Robert Blaine, are just a few of the former students and parents who have rejoined our organization in new roles.

This season is no different. One such alum who has returned to DCYOP is Sydney Ebersohl, who now works with many of our students as a violin teaching artist and played violin in YO from 2016-2017.

“Three years before I joined, I had not been a part of an orchestra program outside of school,” Sydney shares. “Being in an orchestra with a group of young musicians who are all passionate about music was something I had missed. During my time in the Youth Orchestra, we went on tour to Chile during the New Year, played under the baton of renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel, collaborated with amazing singers, and played in the Concert Hall at the Kennedy Center.”

Sydney didn’t just play at the Kennedy Center – she won the 2017 concerto competition and performed a movement of the Mendelssohn violin concerto with YO. “I was so humbled to be able to play a solo on such a historic stage, but all of the experiences and memories I had would not be the same were they not with the incredible friends I made in the program.”

Being part of an international tour is always a transformative experience for students, whether it’s creating new friendships and strengthening existing ones or directly shaping decisions they make about the trajectory of their young lives. “During the tour in Chile, I was receiving results from pre-screening auditions at various conservatories,” Sydney recalls. “I was deciding between attending one of these conservatories or a college. Being involved in a youth orchestra before deciding to go to CCM was pivotal in my final decision to pursue a conservatory instead of a ‘regular’ college.”

Sydney went on to study violin performance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) with Timothy Lees, former concertmaster of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. After graduating last April, she moved back to the D.C. area and shortly thereafter secured her position teaching with DCYOP. It’s a career step that carries deep meaning and purpose for Sydney.

“It is important to me to give back to the community what it gave me as a child. I was fortunate enough to have been given so many opportunities in my youth to grow my musical education. I decided to come back to DCYOP as a teacher so that I can help the next generation of musicians find their own passions and guide them towards their own musical and personal success. I want to be a part of an organization that gives every child who wants to learn a memorable experience with music, and DCYOP does just that.”

Imani Winds Inspire Students to Achieve Their Dreams

The excitement on October 8th was palpable as we welcomed one of today’s preeminent chamber ensembles, Imani Winds, to program. For over two decades, the twice Grammy nominated wind quintet has established itself as both a champion of the classic chamber music repertoire as well as a thoroughly modern ensemble that seeks to expand the repertoire by commissioning new works by living composers that reflect this moment in history.

We were also excited to welcome back one of our very own alums, oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz. Along with bassoonist, Monica Ellis, Spellman-Diaz is one of the original members of Imani Winds and continues to perform with the ensemble full-time in addition to her own busy teaching and performance schedule.

Members of Imani Winds spent the morning working with our advanced flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn students in small masterclass groups, where they received one-on-one coaching and invaluable technical and musical advice from these seasoned artists. Afterwards, students of all ages and instruments were treated to a special performance by Imani Winds, where they played a variety of works from their broad repertoire. In between pieces, each member of the ensemble took a moment to talk about their career journey, share some practical advice with the students, and answer their questions.

Everyone walked away from the event charged with energy and fresh ideas and perspectives on the hard work of improving and growing as a musician. We are incredibly grateful to our friends at The Clarice at the University of Maryland, College Park, for arranging this special visit, and send our deepest thanks to Toyin and her colleagues for this opportunity!

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DCYOP Welcomes Dr. Robert Blaine as New Board President

Dr. Robert Blaine

DCYOP is thrilled to welcome widely respected thought leader, educator, and musician, Dr. Robert Blaine, as the new president of our Board of Directors. Among the many titles that demonstrate how Dr. Blaine has distinguished himself professionally, we are proud to note that he is also a DCYOP alum!

“Being in DCYOP gave me a foundation to play at the Kennedy Center and move on a different plane, but it also gave me a set of friends,” Dr. Blaine recently shared. “That was my tribe, my community. To have a group of people around me that understood me and where I was coming from, that was incredible.”

Since his DCYOP days, Dr. Blaine built an enviable career as a trombone soloist, orchestral musician, and conductor, performing with and conducted professional ensembles around the world and all across North America, including appearances with the U. S. Army Orchestra “Pershing’s Own.” He then extended his passion for music to the realm of education, taking on academic appointments including Associate Provost at Tougaloo College and as Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Cyber Learning, Director of Orchestral Studies, and Professor of Music at Jackson State University, and recognition as an Apple Distinguished Educator.

Dr. Blaine currently serves as the senior executive and director for the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF Institute), an organization to empowering thousands of municipal leaders across America to take bold actions that lead to better outcomes and greater equity for all children, youth, and families in their communities.

Prior to his role at the YEF Institute, Dr. Blaine served as the City of Jackson’s Chief Administrative Officer. Dr. Blaine led the development and implementation of the city’s strategic plan, which promotes a “dignity economy” – an economic model in which municipal investments were made towards the inherit dignity of every citizen in Jackson through early childhood success, financial empowerment, and equitable workforce development. 

With his unique perspective as a professional musician, educator, and innovative leader dedicated to equitable development, Dr. Blaine offers an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience that will no doubt enrich and bolster our organization as it continues to grow and evolve. We look forward to working with Dr. Blaine in his new leadership role and hope you will join us in welcoming him back to the DCYOP family!