The Kennedy Center

DC Youth Orchestra


Founded in 1960 by Lyn McLain at the request of DC Public Schools, DCYOP has been an integral part of the Washington, DC community fostering the musical development of more than 50,000 youth. The first youth orchestra to perform at the Kennedy Center, DCYOP has toured 22? countries, played for US presidents and diplomats, and worked with esteemed musicians such as Copland, Maazel, Rostropovich, Hamlisch, and most recently, Gustavo Dudamel and Yo-Yo Ma. The program has received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (formerly Coming Up Taller) and the Mayor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Arts Education. The Catalogue for Philanthropy selected DCYOP as “one of the best small non-profits in the Greater Washington region” for its 2016-2017 award year.

DCYOP believes that every child should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and play in an orchestra. At DCYOP, the orchestra serves as a model for community. An atmosphere of competition is replaced by a shared endeavor for musical excellence. Through the ensemble, our young musicians develop the character of respectful team players. And, finally, through the study of a musical instrument and classical music, our students develop the confidence and creativity that empowers them to tackle life’s challenges. Today DCYOP provides group lessons and ensemble opportunities to youth ages 4-18. DCYOP is proud to be an inclusive program and welcomes all students with a desire to learn, regardless of background, socioeconomic status or ability. The organization’s 600+ students represent 250 different schools and 100 unique zip codes.

Many graduates have gone on to successful professional careers in music and beyond. Alumni include Daniel Foster, Principal Viola of the National Symphony Orchestra; Toyin Spellman Diaz, Oboist in the Imani Winds; John McLaughlin Williams, Grammy Award®-winning conductor; Ana Gastayer, Saturday Night Live; Linda Cureton, former CIO of NASA; and Mayor Muriel Bowser, District of Columbia. 

Watch Past Performances

Video 10/3/2017: DC Youth Orchestra

Under the direction of Music Director Mariano Vales, the DC Youth Orchestra (DCYO) performs works by Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mendelssohn, and others.

No tickets required.

Video 6/6/2016: DC Youth Orchestra Program

The DC Youth Orchestra Program brings their renowned Youth Orchestra—under the baton of Music Director Mariano Vales—for an evening of Mendelssohn, Smetana, and Bizet.

Free general admission tickets will be distributed in the States Gallery starting at approximately 5:30 p.m., up to two tickets per person.

Video 5/10/2016: DC Youth Orchestra

Students of the DC Youth Orchestra’s chamber music program join forces with DC Youth Orchestra’s Children’s Orchestra and Washington Performing Arts’ Capitol Strings Students for a collaboration that features musicians of all ages performing works by Telemann, Mozart, and Haydn. Free general admission tickets will be distributed in the States Gallery starting at approximately 5:30 p.m., up to two tickets per person.

Video 5/6/2015: D.C. Youth Orchestra

The orchestra has fostered musical development and changed lives of more than 50,000 D.C. youths for more than 50 years and was the first youth orchestra to perform at the Kennedy Center.

Video 5/29/2014: DC Youth Orchestra

Students from the comprehensive, curriculum-based music education and youth development program perform a concert featuring concerto competition winner Gladstone Butler on marimba.

Video 5/22/2012: DC Youth Orchestra

Gifted students from the D.C. community perform a program of classical works by Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, and Sibelius.

Video 12/18/2011: DC Youth Orchestra

Celebrating its 51st season, this orchestra composed of young people ages 4 to 19 plays holiday favorites.

Video 10/27/2011: DC Youth Orchestra (Czech Republic)

Maestro Jesus Manuel Berard conducts these gifted students in a performance of Czech composer Antonín Dvorák’s acclaimed Symphony No. 9, From the New World. Presented in cooperation with the Embassy of the Czech Republic. Part of Kids Euro Festival 2011.

DC Youth Orchestra