Youth Orchestras of Prince William: Reimagined

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By Amy Falkofske

Sponsored by Youth Orchestras of Prince William

The Youth Orchestras of Prince William (YOPW) will offer orchestra and choral students an opportunity to perform and study in the Hylton Performing Arts Center. The 2022 Summer Session is the flagship of YOPW’s reemergence.

YOPW got its start in the 1980s, initially as part of the Woodbridge Music Club. Eventually, it spun off into a separate organization, according to board president Sheyna Burt, a lawyer and violinist who once played in YOPW herself. “YOPW’s history has made it resilient, creative and committed to serving young people,” said Burt. “We are tough and we will be triumphant.”


Right before COVID hit, YOPW went through a reorganization. Organizers found that many other activities and organizations were competing for area youths’ time. Other issues came into play as well.

“Being a nonprofit organization is hard. You have to balance a commitment to serving the population against the financial realities of running a business; maybe the population can afford what you’re offering, maybe they can’t, maybe the teachers are in a position to help, maybe they’re not. The model that YOPW was using no longer made sense given what our kids and our families needed,” said Burt, who was asked to come on board to help with the rebuilding.

During COVID, YOPW stayed afloat by offering online musicology classes. Those classes were made possible by a donation that allowed the students to participate for free. This performance pause gave YOPW a chance to regroup.


Reimagining YOPW meant considering opportunity gaps in instrumental and choral music.

Amazon Web Services

“We have some schools and students in the County who have better access to private lessons, so they’re getting private study at home; they have better access to instruments, so they’re able to focus on developing their sound without their instruments being an obstacle. It’s an expensive pastime and certainly very expensive if you want to try to make it a career or a vigorous amateur hobby. Our partnership with Amazon Web Services seeks to eliminate cost as an obstacle by making thirty full Summer Session scholarships available to the kids.”

YOPW has also set out to address education gaps between students by focusing on things like how to practice, how to audition and what to study while not playing with your school ensemble.

“The program that we have created includes a Varsity Orchestra for the older, more experienced performers and a Junior Varsity Orchestra for mid-level string, wind, brass, and percussion orchestra students. In addition, we have a chorus to make sure that our young vocalists also are getting the attention they need to succeed,” said Burt. “If YOPW does nothing else, it will help these musicians to maximize their potential – to use what they have to get to the level they want.”

YOPW 2022 Summer Session

This year, for the first time, YOPW will offer a two-week summer session for student musicians who will be between the ages of 11 and 19 as of June 28, 2022.

Students will rehearse challenging and fun repertoire and then present a concert at the end of the two-week program. They will also participate in sectionals with expert coaches to get performance hints and work out tricky parts in the music.

Youth Orchestras of Prince William

YOPW string orchestra rehearsal

Students also will get a chance to approach music academically. They will take musicology classes that will allow them the opportunity to explore music history, theory and science – the hows and whys of instrumental and choral music.

A fun bonus for students who participate in the Summer Session is the opportunity to attend a performance by GoGo Symphony and DC Strings. Students will celebrate the diversity that is often lacking in instrumental music and think about the boundaries they can push with music.

Students who wish to apply for the program need to fill out the application here by Monday, May 16 at 5:00 p.m.  The Summer Session takes place June 28 through July 1 and July 5 through July 9 at the Hylton Center.

Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra Helping CASA

Burt also serves on the boards of the Hylton Center, Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra (OBCO) and Court Appointed Special Advocates – Children’s Intervention Services (CASA). On Sunday, May 15, OBCO will perform a family-friendly concert to benefit CASA. It will take place at 3:00 p.m. at the Hylton Center.

The title of the concert is OBCO and CASA CIS Go to Hollywood. It will feature the music of composer John William.

An after-party will take place in the Hylton Center and will feature snacks, kids’ games, and live band karaoke. Concert tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and military and free for children 17 and under; after-party tickets for adults are $5, free for children. Buy them here.

Amy Falkofske is a staff writer for Prince William Living.


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