2024 Spring Concerts are Here!

It’s spring concert weekend! Get ready for performances by all nine of our progressive ensembles plus our Young Virtuosi chamber orchestra, as well as the stage debut of 122 excited beginner string, wind, brass, harp, and percussion students. You won’t want to miss this exciting weekend of performances! If you are attending Sunday’s concerts, please join us for a pre-concert reception to celebrate our students and the end of another wonderful season.

All concerts will take place at the UDC Theater of the Arts in NW DC. Parking is available on the street or in the adjacent garage.

View the Concert Programs Here.

Saturday, May 18, 2024
12:00 pm – Beginner Students (approx. run time 1 hour)
3:15 pm – Debut Orchestra, Concertino, and Sinfonia (approx. run time 45 minutes)
5:30 pm – Premiere Winds, Young Artists Orchestra, and Wind Ensemble (approx. run time 45 minutes)

Sunday, May 19, 2024
1:00 pm – Repertory Orchestra and Youth Philharmonic (approx. run time 1 hour 15 minutes)
4:00 pm – Public reception in the upper level lobby of UDC Theater of the Arts
5:15 pm – Youth Orchestra and Young Virtuosi (approx. run time 1 hour 30 minutes)




Get to Know DCYOP Alumni Edition: Kathy Nierenz

In this edition of Get to Know DCYOP, we wanted to introduce you to one of very special alums, Kathy Nierenz, who served as concertmaster in a special alumni side-by-side performance with the Young Virtuosi for DCYOP’s first annual Community Day celebration at the Kennedy Center last month. An accomplished violinist, Kathy has taught violin, viola and orchestra at the Music School of the Hanseatic City of Lueneburg, Germany for the last 35 years. Read on to learn more about Kathy and how DCYOP deeply impacted her decision to pursue a flourishing career in music.

Where did you grow up?
In DC/ in the Brookland area in N.E.

How did you get started in music and what was your path to DCYOP?
I started playing the violin at John Burroughs Elementary School because my older sister, Nancy, did that a few years before. Soon after, I started to take private lessons with Margaret Wright in Rockville-because my sister, Nancy, did that too!  I heard about DCYOP through my sister, Nancy, who was enrolled in DCYOP. I owe it all to my sister, Nancy.

How did your DCYOP experience influence your decision to pursue a career in music?
I first started out in the junior orchestra. About 8 months before the senior orchestra participated in the Festival of Youth Orchestras in Scotland and London, I was picked to take part in the tour. Playing Mahler’s 5th Symphony was the eye-opener. I’d never played such powerful and emotional music before in my life and afterwards I just wanted to do that. Every time I hear or have  played this symphony it always brings me back to my experience with DCYO.

What is one of your favorite DCYOP memories as a student?
My most favorite memory is the performance in London, where I started to cry after the slow movement. I remember vividly how proud Lyn and we all were for pulling the whole symphony off- after all, it is long and not the easiest piece to play.

What are some of the most important lessons you learned at DCYOP?
Lesson 1: you have to practice Lesson 2: no practice-no fun  Lesson 3: (and this one is the most important to me) orchestra playing is all about the common goal of playing in a team; learning that the success of a performance depends on EVERYONE doing their very best. I learned all of this from Lyn McClain and have over the years tried to incorporate these very basic principles into my own orchestra teaching.

What was your educational/career path after high school?
Still in high school I had the privilege to be participate in the BUTI Program (Boston University Tanglewood Institute). It was there that I met the teacher I wanted to work with at Boston University, Roger Shermont, who was in the first violin section of the Boston Symphony. Because of him  I ultimately ended up going to the Boston University College of Fine Arts. At that time, the emphasis in the music department at Boston University was orchestra training. Joseph Silverstein, the former concertmaster of BSO was also on the staff there and conducted master classes. My chamber music coach was Eugene Lehner who was the violist in the legendary Kolisch Quartet, which premiered almost all quartets written in the early to mid 2000’s. My orchestra instructor was Viktor Yampolsky, also violinist with BSO and former conductor of the Omaha Symphony and National Symphony Orchester in South Africa. Wow, what a line up of great teachers and mentors I had! After my graduation I went to Germany, where I have lived now for over 40 years

Who is one of your favorite performers? Why?
I have quite a few, it usually depends on what kind of mood I’m in. I will start with my current ones: Cecile McClorin Slavant (jazz singer) and her accompanist Sullivan Fortner. Why? Cecile studied baroque singing in France and has an impeccable technique. She’s the only jazz vocalist that I know who can change the timbre so eloquently depending on which genre and what language she’s singing. Sullivan Fortner is simply a genius with Mozartian qualities. The way he can use the simplest musical motive and turn it into something bigger than us all is absolutely breathtaking. On the classical side, I am a great fan of the pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason from England. She, as well as her other 4 incredibly talented siblings, is especially keen on giving composers of color their rightful chance to be heard. Her interpretation of The Bamboula from Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is my all-time favorite. I hope that she is as reknowned in the States as she is in Europe. As for my violin heroines, I have to mention Isabella Faust and Hillary Hahn. Sorry, but it was impossible to name just one.

What is one of your favorite pieces of music? Why?
Will always be Mahler’s 5th Symphony for the above-named reasons

What are your interests outside of music?
Don’t really have any, because there’s no time for them. Ask me again when I retire in 2 years.

What do you love most about DC and/or what are you most excited about doing/seeing while you are here this weekend?
I grew up in DC, so it’s always a pleasure to be here. I especially love riding the metro. I can vividly remember when the system was inaugurated. I am most excited about playing again in the Kennedy Center. The last time I played there was in 1974 for the DCYOP’s farewell concert from  before we left for Europe. If it weren’t for DCYOP I would not have pursued a career in music. It is a great honor for me to give something back to the very institution that gave me so much.

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, Élise 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.

Join Our Team!

We are excited to announce that two opportunities have opened up for qualified applicants who are passionate about our mission to empower students to transform their lives through music. Follow the links below to find complete descriptions of the positions and directions on how to apply.

Director of Operations

Operations and Administrative Assistant



DCYOP Students to Perform at the National Gallery of Art in Early 2024

Audiences will have several opportunities to enjoy performances by DCYOP students at DC’s National Gallery of Art in early 2024. First up on Saturday, February 3rd, the Young Virtuosi will perform a 30 minute program of works by composers from the African  diaspora including Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint George, Scott Joplin, and Samuel Coleridge Taylor. The ensemble will give two performances at 1:30 and 3:00 PM in the East Building Mezzanine.

On Sunday, March 10th, members of the Youth Orchestra will join the  for a concert commemorating International Women’s Day. Celebrated Ukranian-born pianist Inna Faliks will join the combined orchestra for the world premiere of a piano concerto by Grammy-nominated composer Clarice Assad as well  as Clara Schumann’s piano concert in A minor, op. 7. 

Another Wonderful Weekend of Winter Concerts are in the Books

We are so proud of every student who performed in our winter concerts at UDC earlier this month! Ten ensembles, from our Debut Orchestra to our 91-member Youth Orchestra, played their hearts out on the Theater of the Arts stage for nearly 1,250 enthusiastic attendees. Among the highlights of the concert performances included the world premiere  by the Youth Orchestra of WONDER by Allison Loggins-Hull, the final K-12 New Music Project commission that was generously supported by our partners at the National Orchestral Institute + Festival and the League of American Orchestras. The Youth Orchestra opened the final winter concert with a beautiful performance of “Nimrod” from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations in tribute to founder Lyn McLain.

We look forward to sharing concert videos with you on our YouTube channel in early January! In the meantime, see what some of our students, faculty and staff are most looking forward to during the upcoming winter break. See you in 2024!




Get to Know DCYOP – Richard Bradford

For our last edition of Get to Know DCYOP for 2023, we want to introduce you to one of our beginner ensemble students, cellist Richard Bradford. Richard started cello with us last school year and joined his first ensemble, the Debut Orchestra, this year. A multitalented musician, actor, and singer, Richard most recently made his Folger Theater debut in this fall’s production of The Winter’s Tale, and recorded a television pilot last summer. Read on to learn more about Richard’s passion for music and his plans for his bright future.


How old are you? What grade are you in and where do you go to school?
I am 8 years old and I am a fourth grader at John Lewis Elementary School

How long have you been studying the cello? What made you choose it?
I have been studying the cello for about a year now.

I didn’t choose the cello, my mom did. But now I wish I had known about it before. The cello is a cool instrument to play, and it has a nice tone, so it is also really nice to listen to.

What has been the hardest thing about learning the cello? What has been the most fun thing about learning the cello?

I’m not basing this on how I feel now, but in beginner A, I was actually having trouble with figuring out my hand posture. Basses are very lucky because they have two professional hand postures to use. The cello only has one.

I have to say that the most fun thing has been doing the eighth notes for Two German Folk Songs because I get to play a lot of notes and I like the tune of it.

How long have you been in DCYOP? What ensemble are you in currently?
I have been in DCYOP for a year! First, I was in the beginner A class and then I moved to the Debut Orchestra. My mom signed me up for the DCYOP before I knew anything about the amazing cello!

What do you like most about DCYOP?
I loooooove the fact that in DCYOP, there are all these different instruments playing and we have all these different parts and I like the fact that the music comes together well.

Do you have any musical goals that you would like to tell us about?
Singer-songwriter and dancer, that’s me. I just want to do those along with my acting career.

Do you have a favorite musician or composer (does not have to be classical!) that you like to listen to?
No, actually! I love a LOT of different artists. But I can’t say any one is my favorite. Including Billy Joel, Prince, Michael Jackson, Kenny Loggins and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

What do you like to do outside of music?
I like writing songs and singing, plus reading. I love to act and have fun too!


Get to Know DCYOP – Tim Provost

Meet the newest member of the DCYOP administrative team: Tim Provost! Tim is our new Program Manager but is no stranger to DCYOP. An alum of the program and former teaching artist, Tim is a natural fit for his new role on the program team.  Read on to learn more about Tim’s interests, his favorite DC spots, and how DCYOP has impacted his life.


Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Hyattsville, Maryland in Prince George’s County!

 How did you get started in music and what kind of work did you do prior to joining the DCYOP team?
My primary instrument is the upright bass, which I started playing in my elementary school’s orchestra in 4th grade. I went to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and majored in Music Education. Before my work with DCYOP, I taught for various music programs around Baltimore City including the Bridges Music Program and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program. I also gigged as a bassist, gave private lessons, and worked as a substitute teacher for Baltimore County public schools. Over the years, I’ve collected many more string instruments and learned to play them (probably too many), but it all started with the bass. I don’t get to play the bass as much as I used to, but I still try to play an instrument every day. Playing the DCYOP’s upper orchestra bass sections recently has been really great for me musically!

What do you do at DCYOP in your new role and what are your general responsibilities?
My new role at DCYOP (which I am incredibly excited about!) is Program Manager. In this role, I work with DCYOP teachers and staff  to put together schedules, set up classrooms/rehearsal spaces, assist with events, and facilitate after-school programming. I get to work with practically everyone in the program, which is fantastic!

What was your path to DCYOP? Why did you decide you wanted to work here?
My time with DCYOP started when I was still in high school. I was advised by all of my music teachers (and even a few complete strangers who I met while playing bass) that the program was amazing and that I should join. Then, after graduating college, I reconnected with the program as a teacher.

Seeing the program both as a student and teacher helped me appreciate just how much good the DCYOP does through music. The DCYOP team is incredibly dedicated to helping students across the region grow both as musicians and as people. I am very passionate about this kind of education, and I am honored to be a part of the program’s work.

What is one of your favorite DCYOP memories as a student?
There are so many! Of all of them, I think getting to travel to Italy with the orchestra was probably the best. I had never been out of the country or on a plane before that trip, so the opportunity to travel was life-changing in and of itself. Being able to play music while traveling made it even more meaningful, and I will remember that experience for the rest of my life.

Who is one of your favorite performers? Why?
I really love watching Chris Thile play. He’s what inspired me to start playing mandolin, and his live performances always leave me stunned. I’ve never seen somebody as in-control of their instrument as he is. I’ve been lucky enough to see him live twice at Wolf Trap, and both times were incredible.

What is one of your favorite pieces of music? Why?
The piece that comes to mind for me is Mahler’s Second Symphony. It’s a gigantic piece scored for a huge orchestra, including a choir at one point, and it’s completely over-the-top. Every movement is intense and emotional in one way or another. The bass parts are also excellent, which helps! I got to play this piece with my local community orchestra when I was 16 and it knocked me off my feet with both its beauty and its intense difficulty. I’ve loved it ever since.

What are your interests outside of music?
I honestly spend most of my free time either playing music or looking up instruments, so it’s always hard for me to think of other hobbies! I love to read and play with my pets, and my wife and I like to cook together. I also play video games whenever I have a bit of extra free time. I’ve been a huge Nintendo fan for as long as I can remember.

What is your favorite place in DC?
The Smithsonian museums are always incredible to me. My parents would take me to see them most years for my birthday and I never get tired of them. The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are also a favorite of mine. It’s a great park and is gorgeous in full bloom.


Get to Know DCYOP – Keith Kelsey

For the last three years, flutist Keith Kelsey has played a pivotal role at DCYOP as both a teaching artist and the conductor of our Premiere Winds ensemble. Keith is an incredibly versatile artist, having also spent the last 8 years performing with the Baltimore Ravens Marching Band as both a piccolo player and Drum Major. He is also a devoted educator who is truly passionate about helping young musicians discover and nurture their love of music.


Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Detroit, Michigan.

How did you get started on your instrument?
While flute is my primary instrument, I actually started off playing the clarinet in 5th grade band. When I was in middle school, I found a flute in my grandfather’s house. The flute belonged to my aunt when she was a little girl. I taught myself how to play it. I eventually switched and played the flute in my middle school band because I thought that had all of the fun parts in the music 🙂

Did you always want to become a professional musician? What was your path (did you play in youth orchestra growing up, study music in college, have you pursued other careers, etc.)?
I always knew I wanted to be a professional musician growing up. I had a “calling” during my senior year of high school to become a music teacher, so that’s what I did! I went to Western Michigan University for my undergrad studies and earned a degree in Secondary Music Education.

How long have you taught at DCYOP and what is one of your favorite memories? 
I’ve taught at DCYOP for 3 years already and my favorite memory so far was conducting the Premiere Winds ensemble during the spring 2023 concert. The music that was programmed during that cycle was difficult and I was so proud to see their hard work paying off!

What do you like most about teaching?
What I love most about teaching is seeing the growth in my students.

Do you do perform/teach outside of DCYOP?

 I teach middle school band for Baltimore County Public Schools and perform with the Baltimore Ravens Marching Band.

Who is one of your favorite performers? Why?
One of my favorite performers is Beyoncé. I’ve been a fan since I was 7 years old. It has been such a joy watching her grow into the artist she is today. She is one of my favorite performers because I enjoy her voice and she is a great dancer. She’s a performer of many talents!

What is one of your favorite pieces of music? Why?
One of my favorite pieces of music is “Carmen Fantasy for Flute & Piano” by François Borne. There is a lot of nostalgia for me behind that piece. I performed it for my undergrad senior recital. I remember working so hard to learn the piece. It is a difficult piece and I was so proud of myself for being able to perform it well! It is an 11 minute piece that takes you through the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet, so its enjoyable for listeners as well.

What are your interests outside of music? 
Outside of music, I enjoy exercising and reading.

Where is your favorite place to go for fun or what is your favorite thing to do in DC?
In DC, I love going to the museums and trying new restaurants. There is so much to do and see, and I often still feel like a tourist.


Winter 2023 Concerts are Here!

It’s time for DCYOP’s winter concerts! Here’s what you need to know:

Saturday, December 16th – 1:00 PM
Performances by Debut Orchestra, Concertino, and Sinfonia
View Concert Program

Saturday, December 16th – 4:00 PM
Performances by Premier Winds, Wind Ensemble, and Young Artists Orchestra
View Concert Program

Sunday, December 17th – 1:00 PM
Performances by Repertory Orchestra, Youth Philharmonic, and Young Virtuosi
View Concert Program

Sunday, December 17th – 4:00 PM
Performances by the Youth Orchestra
View Concert Program

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.