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May 31, 2023

DC Youth Orchestra Program Welcomes Loretta Thompson as New Executive Director

After a nearly year-long national search, the DC Youth Orchestra Program is getting ready to welcome its fifth executive director to lead D.C.’s oldest and nationally recognized youth orchestra.

Loretta Thompson, most recently Chief Program Officer of Sitar Arts Center, in Washington, D.C., will take over leadership of the 63-year-old ensemble-based orchestral music education program at the end of May.

“We feel that Loretta’s background working with diverse communities and the fact that she used her medium — visual arts — to communicate and bring people together, make her the right person to do that with music at DCYOP,” said Robert Blaine, president of the board of DCYOP. “We want to make sure this opportunity is available to as diverse a set of students as possible. Her lived experience and her artistic experience position her well to succeed in achieving our mission of transforming young people’s lives through music, and making DCYOP Washington’s youth orchestra”

Thompson has led and developed arts education for youth and young adults, with a focus on access and community-building. At Sitar Arts Center, she created a parent engagement program, a teen leadership program, and a summer camp. She collaborated with architects and engineers to design a facility expansion for teens and young adults, with a focus on creative spaces and an arts career training program. She will be the first Black person to serve as executive director at DCYOP.

Music education at the highest levels pays dividends beyond musical excellence, she says: “I know people who are musicians and music educators today because of the experience they had in my high school music program with one teacher. I have seen shy, quiet spoken teens become leaders and politicians. Some of the most troubled youths have graduated in the top 10 percent of their class because of their participation in music programs and dedicated music educators.”

Thompson has a master’s in arts management from George Mason University and a bachelor’s in fine arts in sculpture from University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She volunteers as chair of the Ward 5 Education Equity Committee, volunteers with First Generation College Bound, and was a parent leader with PAVE, a parent education advocacy group in D.C. 

“I was drawn to DCYOP by its clear passion for transforming young people’s lives through music,” Thompson said. “And by the way it incorporates diversity, equity, and especially inclusion, into every aspect of its programs, something that has long been part of my professional work and commitment. Many organizations talk about diversity, equity and inclusion — DCYOP has a deserved reputation for the way it makes inclusion the starting point, not an afterthought.”

Evan Ross Solomon, who has served as DCYOP’s artistic director and principal conductor for 10 years, says Thompson is a proven leader in the arts world and a visual artist herself, with an understanding of what it means to be an artist. 

“She understands the value of belonging and the need to have that for every one of our students for them to be their best, as musicians and as people,” Ross Solomon said. “And she is someone who’s committed to our community approach but will also bring a fresh perspective to what we do.”

DCYOP is the only preK-12 program in the DMV area that makes high quality ensemble music education available to all students, regardless of background, socioeconomic status, or ability. Every student is accepted and placed in one of nine ensembles designed to meet students at every stage of their musical journey. 

Elizabeth Schurgin, who served as executive director for nine years, left the role in August 2022. Ed Spitzberg, who serves on the Interim Executive Network’s steering committee and leads Spitzberg Advisors, a strategy consultancy for nonprofits, has served as interim executive director since. Creative Evolutions led the talent search process for DCYOP.