About Us
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About Us

DC Youth Orchestra’s mission is to empower young people to transform their lives through music and community.


Here, competition is replaced by a shared pursuit of musical excellence and students develop the confidence and creativity to take on life’s challenges. Since 1960, more than 50,000 students of all backgrounds, abilities, and learning styles have studied and played with DCYOP, toured 24 countries and met and learned from master musicians, including Copland, Yo-Yo Ma and others.

Mission and philosophy

Our mission

To empower young people to transform their lives through music and community.


We Believe

  • All young people should have access to the transformative power of music education.
  • Excellence is fostered through diversity, inclusion, and community.
  • Students are supported in their personal journeys by meeting them where they are.
  • Youth orchestras can model change and shape the future of the orchestral music world.

DCYOP is the only preK-12 program that seeks to make high quality ensemble music education available to all students, regardless of background, socioeconomic status, or ability. But creating access isn’t enough. At DCYOP, we incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into the everyday fabric of our programs. It is the starting point, not an add-on.

Our history


DCYOP has been an integral part of the Washington, D.C., community since its founding in 1960. The first youth orchestra to perform at the Kennedy Center, DCYOP has toured 24 countries, played for US presidents and diplomats, and worked with esteemed musicians such as Aaron Copland, Lorin Maazel, Mstislav Rostropovich, Marvin Hamlisch, Gustavo Dudamel, Yo-Yo Ma, and Kevin Deas.


Alumni include Daniel Foster, Principal Viola of the National Symphony Orchestra; Toyin Spellman Diaz, Oboist in the Imani Winds; Chris Royal, Professor of Music at Howard University; John McLaughlin Williams, Grammy Award-winning conductor; and John Wineglass, Emmy Award®-winning composer.


Alumni have also found careers in the sciences, writing, and politics, among other disciplines, including Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Honorable Cheryl Long, CEO Linda Cureton, author Tracy Chevalier and activist, writer, and comedian Baratunde Thurston.


The program has received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (formerly Coming Up Taller) and the Mayor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Arts Education.

What Makes DCYOP different?

At DCYOP, every child has the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and play in a high quality orchestra. Our students come from more than 200 public, public charter, and private schools and a variety of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.

  • Meet every student where they are, and stay with them throughout their journey

  • Welcome every child to participate in an appropriate level ensemble or program

  • Nurture each student’s musical, mental, physical, and social growth

  • Provide programming that is affordable and accessible

  • Cultivate a spirit of collaboration