Get to Know DCYOP: Rishab Jain

Meet sixteen-year-old percussionist Rishab Jain, who is a new member of both DCYOP’s Youth Orchestra and this year’s class of Washington Musical Pathways Initiative students. Already a highly accomplished musician, Rishab has collected numerous accolades including winning the inaugural Dove Marimba Competition in 2022, a feature appearance on From the Top, and a recent solo performance with the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra in March 2023. In this interview, we loved learning more about Rishab and all the ways in which music has influenced his many passions and interests both inside and outside the practice room. Welcome to DCYOP, Rishab!

How long have you been playing your instrument and how did you get started?

As a child, I was surrounded by music – both my mom and my sister were musicians, and our home was perpetually filled with singing or violin playing. If not making it, my family was listening to music, which also had a huge influence on my passion for music in the early stages. I often heard different beats or “grooves” and thought to myself “how cool would it be to be able to play that!” When I first heard my best friend play a drum solo, I instantly knew I wanted to play percussion. However, I knew I would have to wait until 4th grade to begin playing in school – so, for my birthday in 2nd grade, I asked for percussion private lessons as my present.

I was blessed to have my wish granted by my parents and I started my path into percussion. It has now been over 8 years, and I am very thankful to still be playing. Music truly means the world to me and it is more than just a hobby – it is a passion, and a gift that I will carry through the rest of my life. Music has helped me get through the lowest of lows and achieve the highest of highs. In my daily life, music has become pretty much a necessity. Whether it be practicing percussion, listening to music, or talking about a musical concept, I am always surrounded by music and I am very grateful that this is the case. Through the community I have built throughout the years from my various music-related activities, I have had opportunities that 2nd grade me could never have even dreamed of – I look forward to reaching new heights that I cannot begin to imagine today. My musical journey has taught me the meaning of perseverance, and to find beauty in even the most seemingly mundane aspects of life – and I am excited to see where it leads me in the years to come.

How long have you been in DCYOP and why did you join?

This is my first year in DCYOP and I joined as I found myself drawn to their mission statement, which eloquently aspires to “empower young individuals to transform their lives through the transformative power of music and the strength of a closely-knit community.” This mission deeply resonated with me, inspiring my decision to join the organization. The sense of belonging within this tight-knit community has been nothing short of remarkable. From the moment I stepped through the door, I sensed that I had become part of something truly exceptional—a musical family, if you will. I am looking forward to continuing this journey and making lots of great music with my fellow DCYOP musicians.

What are some of your favorite things about DCYOP so far?

Some of the aspects of my DCYOP experience that I hold in high regard include the captivating repertoire we’ve had the privilege of performing and the invaluable opportunity to collaborate with the esteemed Mr. Tony Asero in the percussion section.

What interested you about the Washington Musical Pathways Initiative?

Much like my experience with DCYOP, the mission of the Pathways program struck me deeply. Observing the limited representation of Indian percussionists, and musicians from cultural minorities in general, within the professional music realm, it was truly heartening to discover that the Pathways program places a significant focus on supporting individuals from these communities.

What are some of your favorite things about Pathways so far?

One of the standout aspects of the Pathways program that I’ve come to appreciate is the amazing performance opportunities it provides year-round. Also, it’s great how swiftly we’ve fostered a close-knit community, despite our relatively short time together.

What are you most looking forward to this season with DCYOP and with Pathways?

I’m really looking forward to all the performances lined up at different venues in both programs. What excites me even more is the chance to make new friends and develop closer relationships with our teachers and fellow performers. It’s going to be an amazing experience!

Do you plan to study music after high school?

I intend to pursue a music education beyond high school, and I am currently contemplating the possibility of enrolling in a dual-degree program to further expand my academic horizons.

What else do you like to do outside of music?

I have a genuine passion for playing basketball and hitting the weights in the gym – it’s where I find a lot of my happiness. Beyond that, I’m deeply involved in my temple, where I’m part of the youth committee, and I also play an active role in my school’s student government.

Who are your musical idols/heroes (favorite composers, musicians)?

Some of my most cherished percussionists and composers include Nanzy Zeltsman, Blake Tyson, She-e Wu, and Kevin Bobo. I’ve had the privilege of meeting each of them personally, and I must say, they are just as remarkable in person as they are when they’re performing.

Anything else you want to share?

I’m thrilled to be a part of this program, and I’m already relishing every moment of this experience!

Growing Brains and Expanding Minds Through Music and Rhythm

Two students stood in front of the whiteboard, conferring quietly as they stared intently at the patterns in front of them. After a few moments of visible frustration, a third student jumped in to help. Eventually nodding in agreement, the trio looked to their teacher, Dr. Jessica Phillips-Silver, to see if they had solved the problem correctly, and then began to perform the complicated polyrhythmic pattern written out on the whiteboard, one student clapping rhythm A and two students clapping the contrasting B rhythm.  

“Are you guys listening to each other?” The students nodded. “Now lead them,” Dr. Jessica instructed, pointing to the rest of the students in the room and dividing them into two groups. The groups lurched into motion, first hesitantly but quickly finding their groove. “Ready….and SWITCH!” The students moved as a single unit, pausing in time for a moment before quickly swapping rhythms. You could practically see the gears turning in their young brains. The next time they were given the cue to switch, they swapped rhythms perfectly in sync without skipping a beat. 

What started out looking like a scene straight out of a summer school math classroom was actually a workshop on neuroscience and rhythm for young musicians at this year’s two-week-long Summer Chamber Music Intensive program. Under the guidance of DCYOP faculty, 21 students explored chamber music repertoire while polishing their sightreading and ensemble skills in both small groups and a full chamber orchestra. The program culminated in performances at both Sitar Arts Center and the George Washington University

Bassoonist Oscar Machado, a long-time DCYOP musician and Washington Musical Pathways Initiative student, came away from his first time participating in the summer intensive feeling excited about all he had learned from his coaches and peers. “If somebody needs to be introduced to chamber music, this is the program. They’ll be introduced to everything they need.” 

In between rehearsals, students participated in a supplementary course to give them a much-needed break from the rehearsal room and the chance to learn fun and useful supporting skills. In previous years, students have been coached in yoga, dance, and musical leadership; this year’s students turned inward to study the impact of rhythm on their own growing brains. 

While everyone knows that developing good rhythm is part of becoming a good musician, it’s the connection to cognitive development that first drew Dr. Jessica, herself an artist and performer, to her work as a neuroscientist. A researcher and founder of Growing Brains, she specializes in helping children and their families recognize the needs of young brains and learn how rhythm can help them develop both their sense of individual power and connection to their communities. Her work inspired her to create a go-go music inspired children’s musical production, Finding Rhythm: A journey through the musical brain, that made its Kennedy Center debut in 2022. 

During the Summer Intensive, Dr. Jessica gave students plenty of opportunities to put their musical brains to work in new and inventive ways that paid off when it came time to rehearse their music. “It was a really fun experience for me,” shared flutist Murilo dos Santos. “It really challenged my mind and helped me to build up subdivision in my head while I’m playing my instrument.” 

Back in the classroom, Dr. Jessica wrapped up her time with the students on the eve of their final performances by drawing a direct connection from the students to their audience through the power of rhythm. “Do you guys see how when you really lean into your part of the polyrhythm you are powerfully guiding the audience to move in that way? But then when you’re locked in with your partner, even though it’s contrasting, you are creating… connection. This is everything in music. This is the experience that you’re giving the audience.”  

“We’re not doing this just for you, even though you know now that it’s really, really good for your own brain development. Right? We are doing this as a gift. You are demonstrating what it means to stand in your own power in your rhythm and then to lock in with the ensemble and find that level of connection. And a lot of people in the audience can’t do that, they don’t have your skills. I listened to you guys play yesterday, you sound beautiful. You’ve got this!”  

And We’re Off!

The 2023-2024 season got off to a great start with over 500 new and returning students across our beginner to advanced programs and ensembles convening at Takoma Elementary School on a beautiful Saturday in September. Take a look at the short video below  to get a glimpse into a typical program day and enjoy the sound of our Youth Orchestra playing Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol in their very first rehearsal of the season.