The DC Youth Orchestra Program was founded in 1960 at the request of DCPS, which identified the need for a city-wide orchestra for young people: many had very little music education; some had none at all. Now in its fifty-second year, and with fresh leadership at the helm, DCYOP is poised to enter a new era – and the need is as pressing as ever. Music is like oxygen for many kids, and they also need a place to go and something to which they can belong. DCYOP is all of those things. The program is built on a 12-level curriculum that allows students to progress at their own pace. Twelve ensembles participate in weekly classes, rehearsals, performances, and even a summer session. An inventory of over 800 musical instruments is available for students to use and rent (many do not own their own), and the program's low fees mean that everyone can participate. Playing together is a transforming experience for these children – and your generosity keeps the music alive.

Headquarters: DC-Ward 6

Where They Operate: DC-Citywide; MD-Statewide; MD-Montgomery County; MD-Prince George's County; MD-Frederick County; VA-Statewide; VA-Arlington County; VA-Fairfax County; VA-Loudoun County; VA-Prince William County; VA-City of Alexandria; VA-City of Fairfax; VA-City of Falls Church

Age Groups Served: Pre-K; Youth; Adolescence; Teenagers; Young Adult; Grades K-12

Population(s) Served: Students

Schools They Work In: Classes are taught in Eastern High School. Outreach locations vary and usually include DC Public, Private and Charter School locations.

Combined Federal Campaign Number: 88347

United Way Agency Number: 8672

Awards & Recognition

2011– November, Youth Orchestra tours Baltimore and Philadelphia, performs in a side-by-side with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra.
2011– October, Youth Orchestra performs in Mutual Inspirations Festival, part of Kids Eurofest 2011, sponsored by the Czech Embassy.
2011– September, Youth Orchestra string students perform at ceremonies commemorating the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 at the Smithsonian American History Museum.
2011– September, Orchestra Day students prepare a concert in one day and perform for friends and family. Music from Halo!
2011– July, intermediate violinist perform at the Crossroads Farmers' Market.
2011– July, DCYOP summer camp students march in the Capitol Hill Fourth of July Parade in Washington, DC.
2011– March, Youth Orchestra Performs "Pictures at an Exhibition" and holds a drawing contest. Students in grades 3-5 from DC Public Schools submit drawings about the composition. Drawings are displayed in overhead projection at the performance at THEARC in SE DC.
2010 – December, Messiah Sing-Along with the Youth Orchestra performed at the Kennedy Center. Under the direction of Maestro Jesus Manuel Berard.
2010 – November, Youth Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Mariano Vales performs From the Barrio to the Concert Hall, a collaborative project. Partners included: Organization of American States, Children and Youth Orchestra Foundation of Argentina, Children and Youth Orchestra Foundation of Chile, DC Youth Orchestra Program, Holy Trinity School of Music, Haiti, National System for Children and Youth Orchestras of Colombia (BATUTA Foundation), National System for the Promotion of Music of Mexico (CONACULTA), National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica, Saint Lucia School of Music, University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Music, Hey Mozart! project.
2010 – September, DCYOP gives first concerts in new facility. Dvorak's New World on September 11th along with Petting Zoo, Orchestra Day, Master Classes, and performance.
2010 – August, DCYOP relocates to Eastern High School after 50 years at Coolidge High School. Orchestra Day and Petting Zoo takes place on September 11, 2010.
2010 – August, DCYOP celebrates 50 years of providing high-quality music education to the youth of the DC area. Celebratory concert at the Kennedy Center on August 21, 2010.
2010 – June, DC Youth Orchestra Program announces that it will be moving to the newly remodeled Eastern Senior High School beginning in the fall of 2010.
2010 – June, Intermediate Violin students perform the National Anthem at the Mystics Game at the Verizon Center. Dr. Sheila Johnson performs with the students.
2010 – April, Youth Orchestra performs at the White House for the Annual Easter Egg Roll.
2010 – February, Youth Orchestra Performs at the National Cathedral for the Annual HS Choir Festival, sponsored by the Cathedral Choral Society and under the direction of Benjamin Hutto.
2009 – December, Flute Choir performs at the White House for a holiday reception
2009 – November, Youth Orchestra students perform Mozart Opera at the Austrian Embassy as part of the Kids Euro Festival with singers from DC's own Embassy Series
2009 – November, Youth Orchestra students perform at the US Department of State, for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ecumenical Patriarch at a state dinner. Secretary Clinton breaks protocol to come over and congratulate the students
2009 – October, Maestro Lorin Maazel visits the DCYOP and conducts a rehearsal with the most advanced ensemble, the Youth Orchestra
2009 – August, students from the Youth Orchestra participate in a side-by-side performance with the Youth Orchestra of the Americas at the Organization of American States.
2009 – July, Intermediate violin students from the program perform the National Anthem at the Washington Mystics v. L.A. Sparks WNBA game
2009 – June, Metro Herald feature article, front page/center, about the DC Youth Orchestra Program
2009 – June, Hill Rag feature article about the DC Youth Orchestra Program
2009 – May, DCYOP subject of feature story on NPR All Things Considered
2009 – April, Youth Orchestra of the DCYOP performs at the Obama Administration’s first Easter Egg Roll. Organization is mentioned on Good Morning America, WTOP, WAMU, and in The Washington Post
2009 – March, Students from the DCYOP perform at the reception for the Mayor’s Arts Awards
2009 – March, Students from the DC Youth Orchestra Program perform at the Arts Council of the National Endowment for the Arts. Executive Director Ava Spece gives a speech to the Council
2008 – August, Students from the DCYOP perform for Vice President (then Senator) Biden
2008 – August, Washington area Bloomingdale’s stores honor the DCYOP as their Charity of Choice for 2008
2008 – June, the Youth Orchestra performs final concert of the season at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2008 – May, the DC City Council members vote to include the DC Youth Orchestra Program in the FY09 City Budget for the first time in the organization’s history
2008 – May, Intermediate violin students of the DCYOP perform the National Anthem at the Washington Mystics v. L.A. Sparks WNBA game
2008 – May, DCYOP named “one of the best small nonprofits in the Greater Washington region” by the Catalogue for Philanthropy – inclusion in the 2008-09 Catalogue
2008 – January, DC Commission on Arts and Humanities awards the Upstart Grant to the DC Youth Orchestra Program
2007 – November, the Youth Orchestra Performs at Kennedy Center, debut of Maestro Jesus Manuel Berard
2007 - Alumni Orchestra Concert and Celebration at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall, on July 8, 2007
2007 - DCYOP announces appointment of Jesus Manuel Berard as conductor of the Youth Orchestra
2006 – Founder and President of the Board, Lyn McLain, announces his resignation from the board of directors
2006 – Founder Lyn McLain announces that he is stepping down from the podium for health reasons
2005 – DCYOP announces that they are seeking a new facility for classes and rehearsals
2005 – Guest conducting appearance by Mr. Marvin Hamlisch, at the December holiday concert at the Kennedy Center
2005 – Student perform at the White House for Helping America’s Youth Conference reception and for First Lady Laura Bush
2005 – DCYOP celebrates 45th Anniversary
2005 – DCYOP unveils new logo and website
2004 – Students perform at the Coming Up Taller Awards event in DC
2004 – Benefit Concert sponsored by the Organization of American States
2004 – DCYOP hires first Executive Director, Ava Spece
2003 – International tour to Japan
2003 – Mayor’s Arts Award, Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education, presented to DCYOP by the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities
2002 – Takao Kanayama hired as conductor for the Youth Orchestra
2002 – International tour to South Africa
2002 – Coming Up Taller award presented to the DCYOP by Laura Bush
1999 – International tour to Austria and Germany
1999 – Exemplary Award given to the DCYOP by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention
1998 – DCYOP receives award in recognition of outstanding performance at the Martin Luther King Jr. Observance, in Fort Monmouth, NJ from the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command
1997 – DCYOP nominated one of 28 organizations/individuals to receive the Merrow Report award Searching for Heroes
1996 – International tour to Netherlands and Belgium
1994 – International tour to Netherlands, France and Belgium
1992 – International tour to Spain
1992 – DCYOP receives Outstanding Instrumental Program award at the Heritage Music Festival in Toronto, Canada
1992 – DCYOP receives Adjudicator Award at the Heritage Music Festival in Toronto, Canada
1990 – First Youth Orchestra ever showcased at an American Symphony Orchestra League Conference, 45th annual conference
1989 – International tour to Spain
1988 – International tour to Puerto Rico, Russia, and Estonia
1987 – Lyn McLain given Washingtonian of the Year award, Washington, DC
1987 – Mayor’s Arts Award, Excellence in Service to the Arts, presented to DCYOP by the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities
1987 – Plaque of Appreciation awarded by the Korean Cultural Foundation, Inc., and the Sun Hwa Arts and High School
1987 – International tour to Puerto Rico and South Korea
1986 – International tour to China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan
1985 – Lyn McLain receives Outstanding Community Service award from the National Guard of the District of Columbia
1984 – International tour to Puerto Rico
1983 – The Hotel Association of Washington DC honors the DC Youth Orchestra Program for outstanding contributions to the city of Washington
1982 – Mayor Marion Barry Proclaims October 19th, “D.C. Youth Orchestra Day” in the City of Washington
1981 – International tour to Greece and Yugoslavia
1978 – International tour to Japan and participated in the National Youth Orchestra festival of Japan as guests of Setsuo Tskahara and premiered Tskahara’s symphony
1978 – Orchestra performs for the Carter administration, on the White House lawn with the Tokyo Junior Philharmonic
1976 – Aaron Copland visits the program and rehearses and performs Lincoln Portrait with the Youth Orchestra. Walter E. Fauntroy narrates the piece. Performance was at Mount St. Mary's College (University)
1974 – International tour to Scotland and London, including participation in the International Youth Orchestra Festival
1972 – International tour to Germany, including participation in the Von Karajan Festival in Berlin
1971 – Orchestra performs for First Lady Patricia Nixon and other dignitaries on the White House lawn
1971 – First Youth Orchestra to perform at the new John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
1970 – DCYOP receives Mayor’s Commendation from Mayor Walter E. Washington, for Outstanding Performance and Exceptional Achievement and for Bringing Honor to the People and City of Washington DC
1970 – Youth Orchestra performs at the Music Educators’ National Convention (MENC) in Pittsburg, PA.
1970 – DCYOP’s first international tour, Switzerland
1969 – Carnegie Hall debut for DCYOP. George Walker guest conducted
1968 – Lily Guest, President of the Friends of the Kennedy Center and Walter Anderson, Head of the Music Department of the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) work to prepare for the DCYOP’s first tour
1967 – DCYOP holds significant fundraising event chaired by the Secretary of State David Rusk
1967 – Youth Orchestra performs for First Lady (Lady Bird) Johnson and other dignitaries on the White House lawn
1964 – DCYOP receives Outstanding Performance award from the Eastern convention of the MENC
1964 – Orchestra performs in Pittsburgh for the Eastern convention of the MENC (Music Educators’ Association)
1962 – Orchestra performs for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and other dignitaries on the White House lawn
1961 – First season begins at Calvin Coolidge Senior High School in NW DC
1961 – Spring, first concert by the DCYOP
1960 – First orchestra meets at Roosevelt High School
1960 – DCYOP is founded by the DC Public Schools, with a handful of teachers and 60 students


Catalogue charities range in size from $100,000 to $3 million. This graphic indicates the budget range of the organization featured here. If you see an organizational budget above the $3 million mark, that is because the featured charity has grown in size since it first appeared in the Catalogue. We proudly present on our website the work of these "growth" charities.

Budget (FY2011)

  • $3 million or higher
  • $1 million to $3 million
  • The current budget for DC Youth Orchestra Program is: $500k to $1 million
  • Less than $500k

About the Catalogue for Philanthropy

The Catalogue selected us as one of its featured charities! Each year 120 expert reviewers evaluate applicants for distinction, merit, and impact. Each featured charity has been successfully site visited and its financials given the thumbs up. The Catalogue for Philanthropy charges no fees and raises funds separately to support its work. Since 2003, it has raised over $29 million for charities across Greater Washington.

If you like DC Youth Orchestra Program you might also like