Celebrating Community Through Music

On April 13, DCYOP celebrated its first annual Community Day with a happy gathering of current students, parents, alumni, and faculty. The main components of the event – a side by side rehearsal led by Artistic Director, Evan Ross Solomon, featuring our current Young Virtuosi ensemble and nearly two dozen alumni, and a discussion panel featuring several of experienced faculty and moderated by Executive Director, Loretta Thompson – took place at The Reach, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The rehearsal and panel were a wonderful lead-up to the anchor event of the day, the Youth Orchestra’s concert in the Concert Hall, a DCYOP tradition that goes back to the organization’s earliest days. Alumni orchestra leader, Kathy Nierenz, who flew all the way from Germany to participate in the event, noted that it was the 50th anniversary of the last time she performed at the Kennedy Center as a young DCYOP student. To open the concert, Artistic Director, Evan Ross Solmon, conducted the Youth Orchestra in his own re-orchestration of Nielsen’s Prelude to Saul and David. The Young Virtuosi were then joined by twenty of our alums and guest artists across the orchestra for a rousing performance of The Bamboula, Rhapsodic Dance, by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. The Youth Orchestra closed out the program in a moving performance of Prokofiev’s somber Symphony No. 7, which it will also be performing at UDC’s Theater of the Arts for its spring concert on May 18th before preparing for their tour to Germany, Austria, and Czechia this summer.

For the first time, DCYOP also presented a number of award to students, faculty, and alumni who were recognized for their significant contributions to DCYOP and beyond.

Amelia Hanbury, a senior at The Cathedral School, and Jacques Sangwa, a senior at Gonzaga College High School, were both presented the 2024 Musicianship Award for their contributions both as musicians and leaders in their DCYOP ensembles. Amelia, a violist, has been a member of DCYOP for 7 years, and will be attending Princeton University in the fall. While in his second year in DCYOP, Jacques has made a quite an impact as both a violinist and bassist, and plans to attend Columbia University as a Political Science major (concentration in International Relations) with a Public Health minor.

Two of DCYOP’s long-serving faculty, Ken Giles and Rachel Pereira, were both recognized with the 2024 Impact Award for their dedication and commitment to inspiring generations of young musicians. For Mr. Giles, it has been quite a journey from former DCYOP parent to beloved faculty member who was inspired to become a music teacher by his sons’ experiences as students in DCYOP. “I am proud of all my students who have learned their instruments, worked their way up through the orchestras, and made lifelong friends along the way,” he shared. “I love to hear the top orchestra play so well, and I also love the progress of the beginner and intermediate orchestras.”

Lastly, the 2024 Lyn McLain Legacy Award was awarded to two outstanding alumnae, whose professional careers have been woven into the history of DCYOP over the years: cellist and founding member of The String Queens, √Člise Cuffy Sharp, and violinist, Calida Jones, whose company, Creative Evolutions, has played a key role in assisting DCYOP as consultants and facilitators.

DCYOP looks forward to hosting more Community Day events in the future with even more of our families and alumni joined together to celebrate the past, present, and future of our organization.