If you had the means to send your children to the best music classes, would you send them to a run-down building with dirty bathrooms and broken windows?
That’s exactly what happens for students in the popular DC Youth Orchestra, an independent program in Washington, D.C., which borrows space at a local public high school. There are hundreds of youth orchestras around the U.S., but this one has found a way to be affordable, competitive and diverse — in every sense of the word.
For Ava Spece, it’s the same story every Saturday morning: cockroaches and burned-out lights. Spece is executive director of the DC Youth Orchestra, or DCYO. She can rattle off a litany of problems she faces at Coolidge High School, where nearly 600 students gather every Saturday to take classes and practice with one of 12 different performing ensembles.
The halls ring with a wide range of music. At one end of the school, a beginning orchestra sounds like it has a lot of room for growth. At the other end of the hall, there’s the more advanced Youth Orchestra, the top dog of the program. And there’s just about everything in between: a junior philharmonic, jazz ensembles and chamber groups.