D.C. Youth Orchestra program returns to outdoor rehearsals

The D.C. Youth Orchestra has returned to outdoor rehearsals following a year of remote gatherings. (FOX 5 DC)

 It was music to their ears, as for the first time in a year, young musicians with the D.C. Youth Orchestra Program came together to play music outside and in-person.

For the young people who met at the Takoma Education Campus on Saturday morning, the return to rehearsing face-to-face was a sign that maybe, their musical lives could go back to some sort of normalcy.

Saturday was a big step forward since the days of Zoom rehearsals and virtual practices as the group of elementary, middle, and high school musicians got ready to take over the grass, while spaced out and play together in real life. 

"I get to see everyone again," said 13-year-old Jonathan Stiff who plays the bass.

"Although it’s not exactly back to normal but it’s kind of close and I’m very excited to play again."

"I’m super excited because it’s really hard to actually play over Zoom because it’s not the same feeling as actually playing all together," said Penelope Sutton, who plays the violin. 

The outside rehearsal held in Northwest D.C was similar to another pilot event held last Saturday at RFK Stadium.

"I felt really happy, I hadn’t seen these people in a whole year and we all go to different schools," said Corinne Hess, who is an oboe player.

"So I felt really happy just to be back and to be with the people I love."

Even with the on and off misty rain the musicians prepared for their rehearsal of their first piece, a composition by Franz Schubert.

It felt like a fairly normal rehearsal aside from the health precautions the orchestra put into place. The group was capped at 20 students per ensemble and everyone wore their masks.

"We can do orchestra safely, we can do a little more space between the musicians to make sure that we are playing together in a safe way," said artistic director and principal conductor Evan Ross Solomon.

Solomon said kids who normally sit in the winds and brass sections had special masks with slits on the mouth piece to prevent droplets from spreading.

He said the organization hopes to expand the outdoor rehearsals to the rest of its students in the coming weeks, while still keeping a virtual option open for musicians who would prefer to rehearse from home.

"For our students this a real touchstone in their life, they depend on it, they are reliant on it because it bring them joy," said Solomon.