Get to Know DCYOP: Austin Adaranijo

For our latest edition of Get to Know DCYOP, we thought it would be fun to introduce you to one of our students, horn player Austin Adaranijo. Read on to learn more about Austin, how he get started and some of his favorite experiences as both a member of our Youth Orchestra and the Washington Musical Pathways Initiative.


My name is Austin Adaranijo, and I am a horn player at the DC Youth Orchestra (DCYOP) and a member of the Washington Musical Pathways Initiative (WMPI). The first time I ever picked up an instrument was in sixth grade, when I started on the trumpet. My band teacher told me that she needed a horn for the following year and that she wanted me to do it. So, in seventh grade, I began playing the horn, and I’ve been doing so for the past four years.    

I first joined DCYOP because a family friend told my dad about the program. During this time, I had just started playing the horn and was enjoying it. My dad thought it would be a good idea to broaden my perspective on music outside of my middle school band; he took me to the audition, and I made it into the Repertory Orchestra (RO). The one thing I remember Maestro Solomon saying to me at the audition was, “thank you for choosing to play French horn.”

DCYOP is the orchestra program where I’ve most grown in my musicianship and the place where I’ve been introduced to the most classical music. There hasn’t been an experience here that I haven’t enjoyed. One of my favorite experiences with DCYOP was my first performance. This was my first orchestra performance ever! Although the music wasn’t that difficult, I was extremely nervous that I would mess up because I was the only horn in RO at the time. I played well in the concert, and numerous people congratulated me afterwards. It felt amazing. Another one of my favorite memories is the 2022 Spain and Portugal tour; it was one of the best musical experiences I’ve had. We rehearsed for hours outside of normal rehearsal to put together our concert program, and it was so rewarding to perform in 1,000-year-old castles and famous concert halls across the world.

The first time I heard of the Pathways program was in DCYOP. I thought it would be something good to try because I wanted to experience something closer to the life of a professional musician. I also thought the reasoning behind it was great: trying to support underrepresented BIPOC musicians pursue successful careers in the orchestral world. It was, and still is, a little intimidating with the juries and papers and applications, but it is preparing me for what’s to come, which is why I’m still in it. My favorite thing about the program is that everything it does is for the benefit of the student. Personal mentors, juries, masterclasses, instrument purchases, college assistance, trial lessons—all of this is to help the student succeed wherever they want to go in music.

One of the most memorable experiences I’ve had with Pathways was the 2022 Chicago Youth in Music Festival and National Pathways Summit. Pathways students from all over the country come to one state once a year and perform a piece together with a famous orchestra, usually with a world-renowned conductor. In 2022, the festival was held in Chicago, performing Listz’s Les Préludes with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Riccardo Muti. This was an amazing experience; not only did we get to perform with Maestro Muti conducting, but we also were able to rehearse with him. On top of all of that, we were able to play a piece by Valerie Coleman under the direction of the LA Opera’s resident conductor, Maestra Lina González-Granados. She was extremely engaging and very prepared. Every time she stepped on the podium, she got straight to what she needed to do. Performing with her is not only something that I will never forget, but also the audience. There were many people who got emotional because of our performance, and that shows how powerful her impact was.

One of the driving forces behind my joining a lot of orchestras, bands, chamber groups, and Pathways is to help me decide if this is something I would like to pursue after high school. So far, although my schedule is never empty, I love having this much music in my life. Music is not the only thing I would like to pursue. I have a great interest in science as well, and I was thinking about doing a double major in music and biochemistry or cell biology. Overall, I’m still in the undecided stage of picking my major(s), but I do want to plan on pursuing music and science.

Outside of classical music and playing the horn, I also like to learn how to play other instruments. I play various woodwind instruments in the pit orchestra at my school. Last year, I played flute, tenor saxophone, and baritone saxophone for my school’s production of Hairspray, and this year I will be playing tenor sax, flute, and bass clarinet in my school’s production of SpongeBob the Musical. Although my schedule never lacks music, I still find time to do things outside of music, including photography, reading biology texts, hanging out with my friends, and watching shows on Netflix.

Despite everything I do with music, I actually do not have a favorite musician or composer. I’ve played a lot of music: Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Copland, and more. Out of all the music I’ve played or heard, there hasn’t been a piece that I didn’t like or haven’t grown to like. I am very indecisive, so I feel like picking a favorite musician or composer would be like limiting myself to only truly enjoying that person’s music.

Coaching Young Musicians to Connect with their Inner Voice

Eva Cappelletti Chao knows the struggles of young musicians very well. Not only is she a professional violinist who has played with major orchestras and in famous venues around the world, but she is also the parent of a busy DCYOP student AND a certified life coach who specializes in helping musicians at all stages of their careers learn to navigate challenges by connecting their authentic self with their artistic self.

“I am finding that the spaces I am creating are rare, very meaningful, and so wanted by musicians of every age and stage of their journey,” Ms. Cappelletti Chao shares. “There is an increasing awareness that we need to support our inner well-being as musicians as we focus on the outer well-doing of our discipline.”

This November, Ms. Cappelletti Chao conducted a workshop with students in our Young Virtuosi ensemble  to introduce them to the importance of understanding how our brains work, discuss the power our thoughts can have over our sense of self, and teach them some specific strategies for managing negative or discouraging thoughts. Students also had the opportunity to write their own personal internal commitment to help remind themselves of the skills they learned and empower themselves to move towards achieving their goals.

“It was a privilege to work with your teen musicians of YV!” Ms. Cappelletti Chao shares. “I found them to be curious and honest in talking about their inner experiences as musicians and also quite open to trying perspective-opening tools.  The insights they shared with each other empowered some of them to set their own unique intentions for themselves as musicians; onstage and off.”

While many seemed unsure of what to expect initially, the resulting conversation seemed to help foster a greater sense of connection and camaraderie within the group. As one student shares, “I thought it was really interesting to hear people’s thoughts about DCYOP (good and bad) and I think it would be helpful to have more workshops that focus on the mental health part of orchestra.” 

Other students were eager to share with parents and teachers what they learned and how they might incorporate it into their daily practice. “I’m really grateful you held a special workshop like that,” one YV parent shares. “It’s hard to get through to teens who tend to have a black-and-white outlook. It’s normal – their brains are wired that way for now. I really appreciate that you are helping students develop more fully psychologically as well as musically.  Understanding the power/role of the mind and regulating internal thoughts is so important, especially in performance.”

As DCYOP continues to deepen its commitment to meeting our students where they are and nurturing the whole child, we hope to continue to offer more supplementary courses that will support each student’s growth, not just musically but mentally, physically and emotionally. Stay tuned for more announcements and events in 2023!

Winter 2022 Concerts are Coming!


It feels like the season just began, but our students are already reaching the home stretch of preparations for their winter concerts, which will take place in just a few short weeks. Here’s what you need to know:

Sunday, December 11th – 1:00 PM
Performances by Debut, Concertino, and Sinfonia orchestras

Sunday, December 11th – 4:30 PM
Performances by Premiere Winds, Wind Ensemble, and Young Artists Orchestra

Saturday, December 17th – 1:00 PM
Performances by Repertory Orchestra and Youth Philharmonic

Saturday, December 17th – 4:30 PM
Performances by Young Virtuosi and Youth Orchestra

All concerts will take place at the UDC Theater of the Arts, located near the intersection of Connecticut Ave NW and Windom Place NW on the UDC campus. Concerts are free and open to the public.