After one year of virtual practice, DC Youth Orchestra resumes in-person rehearsals

After one year of participating virtually, students from the DC Youth Orchestra practiced playing their musical instruments in person under a tent in preparation for June performances.

On Saturday, 215 students, ranging in age from 6 to 18, rehearsed under an outdoor tent in different-sized ensembles playing their cellos, trumpets and violins while masked and socially distanced.

“It was exciting. Our students have been practicing virtually and playing at home and they haven’t been able to hear each other,” said Liz Schurgin, the executive director of DC Youth Orchestra. “This was the first time they’ve heard each other play in a year, and music is meant to be shared, so it was a really powerful experience.”

Schurgin said in an interview with WTOP that safety for their students is paramount.

“We had taken all the CDC guidelines for indoors and applied them outdoors,” she said. “It was exciting for the students to see each other. They weren’t allowed to hug and still had to be social distanced. They were all in masks.”

Kids started showing up at 10 a.m. to the Takoma Education Campus on Piney Branch Road in Northwest D.C. A total of nine ensembles rehearsed, each ranging from 10 to 35 people.

“They were socially distanced and spread apart a little different than a normal orchestra set up,” Schurgin said. “The program ended just before 5 p.m.”

The rehearsals were a way to help the students get reacquainted with one another in preparation for live performances.

“This was practice to help the kids get re-acclimated,” Schurgin said. “We’re planning performances in June, though we don’t know what they are going to look like right now. Stay tuned!”

The nonprofit music program represents students from 100 different zip codes in the D.C. Metro area, and they’re always looking for new students to teach.

“We provide group lessons and ensemble opportunities to any child that wants to belong,” Schurgin said. “If you have a young person that wants to learn a musical instrument or wants to be a part of a larger musical community, we are a great place for that. We are a musical family, one that holds safety as a top priority.”

Glynis Kazanjian

Glynis Kazanjian has been a freelance writer covering Maryland politics and government on the local, state and federal levels for the last 11 years. Her work is published in Maryland Matters, the Baltimore Post Examiner, Bethesda Beat and Md. Reporter. She has also worked as a true crime researcher.

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