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October 27, 2023

Remembering Lyn McLain (1928-2023)

It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that our founder, Lyn McLain, passed away peacefully in his home this week. Remembered as “the father of the American youth orchestra,” Lyn  joined the DC public school system in 1956 as a music teacher at Coolidge High School and, only four years later, launched what became known as DCYOP with an initial orchestra of 60 students and three volunteer teachers. He inspired tens of thousands of young people over the next five decades, encouraging students to grow and learn in community through music. He took DCYOP on over a dozen international tours, introducing DC-area youth to new cultures, people, and music, and giving them the opportunity to serve as ambassadors for the region and the country.

As we all grieve this immeasurable loss, we wanted to share this video of Lyn in conversation with our former Executive Director, Liz Schurgin, from 2020. It includes a wonderful short documentary, “Growing Up with Music,” that tells the story of DCYOP during the early decades of the program’s existence and gives those of us not lucky enough to be there a brief glimpse into Lyn’s vision and the impact of what he created. 

To our DCYOP alumni, we would also like to give you a space to share your recollections and memories while also honoring Lyn’s legacy. The DCYOP Storybook is a project that he conceived of during the pandemic to create a visual and written history of the program as seen through the experiences and memories of its students. If you wish to participate, please complete this form or contact Sandy Choi at sandy@dcyop.org for more information.

Emily Langer of the Washington Post penned this lovely obituary for Lyn that does a wonderful job of encapsulating the incredible breadth and depth of Lyn’s work.

For those who were unable to attend in person, a recording of the celebration of life service held for Lyn is now available online.

The TODAY Show paid tribute to Lyn’s life and legacy in a feature called “A Life Well Lived” that aired November 26, 2023. 

We will be sharing more information in the days, weeks, and months to come as we continue to remember Lyn McLain with immense gratitude for the program he built and the incredible legacy he leaves behind.  Our deepest condolences go out to his wife, Sally, and their family.  (updated 12/20/2023)