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September 9, 2022

Get to Know DCYOP – Gerald Fowkes


Get to Know DCYOP is a regular feature that introduces you to some of the many people who make DCYOP the amazing organization that it has been for over sixty years. Visit our blog regularly to see who you’ll meet next! 


We are excited to welcome Gerald Fowkes to the DCYOP family as the new conductor of our Young Artists Orchestra! An experienced conductor, educator and performing artist, Gerald brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to this position. We cannot wait for you to meet him, but in the meantime read on to learn a bit more about our newest faculty member.


Where did you grow up?  

I grew up in Northern Virginia, then my wife and I moved back in 2003 to raise a family and work.  

How did you get started as a conductor?

Conducting was a fortuitous path for me. It wasn’t until I started teaching in the public schools when I had to waive a stick around to conduct ensembles. I had no idea what I was doing at first! Trial and error have been my most influential teachers. 

 Do you play an instrument? How did you get started?

Yes, I am a cellist! I started playing in the public schools in fifth grade. I desperately wanted to play the double bass, but my parents were not keen on transporting that size instrument. So, we compromised on the cello and here we are 35+ years later.

Did you always want to become a professional musician? What was your path?

Ninth grade was a musically pivotal year for me. In 1992, Mstislav Rostropovich, the famed cellist and former music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was a Kennedy Center Honoree. A massive cello orchestra was assembled to celebrate Slava at the event. The orchestra was compromised of members from the National Symphony and Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestras, as well as a handful of students; I was fortunate to be selected as one of the student cellists. Oh, and, of course, Yo Yo Ma was the principal cellist. To say I was in awe was an understatement. Their dedication to the craft in our lone rehearsal was revelatory. Yo Yo Ma’s dedication to humanity as a musician was inspirational. I knew then that I had to be a cellist and musician from that moment, there really wasn’t any other choice. 

Do you do perform or teach outside of DCYOP? 

Currently, I am the director of orchestras at Fairfax High School in Fairfax, VA. In addition, I’m adjunct faculty at George Mason University where I teach applied cello as well as courses in class strings pedagogy. As a freelance cellist, I continue to play with ensembles throughout the Greater Washington DC area. In addition I perform frequently as a member of the Gunston Piano Trio through GMU’s outreach program.  

What do you like most about teaching/conducting?

I love interacting with kids and providing them with a fun space to play good music. Pure and simple.  

Who is your favorite performer? Why?

The late baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is, hands down, my favorite artist. The warmth of his voice and the way he shapes phrases within a given text is phenomenal. The violinist Giles Apap is a close second. He’s a wizard on the violin and so incredibly comfortable playing in most any genre, a remarkable musician.

What is your favorite piece of music? Why?

Robert Schumann’s ‘Dichterliebe’, with Fischer-Dieskau performing of course, is my absolute favorite work. It’s a song cycle about a poet’s love; I’m a sentimental sap, what can I say.  

What are your interests outside of music?

I love cooking, hiking, cooking, snowboarding, and more cooking. Did I mention cooking?

What is your favorite thing to do in DC?

I love going to concerts and shows, from the Kennedy Center to the 9:30 club!