New Sounds for a New School Year at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop

CHAW students hold up their finished masterpieces at the end of photography class. Photo: Leslie Mansour/Capitol Hill Arts Workshop

Did you hear that sound, Capitol Hill-ians? A scale here, a few notes of an American folk song there. A jazzy piano chordresounding, young voices rising. It’s floating over from 7th and G streets SE. You know it has to be Capitol Hill Arts Workshop(CHAW) with the colorful columns and countless arts opportunities happening day and night.This sound is just a little bit new, though, and it’s because what you’re hearing is a melodious collection of voices from a new resident of CHAW – American Youth Chorus.

True, CHAW already has a ceramics studio, photography darkroom, dance studio, black box theatre, art gallery, art studio, and music practice rooms, but there’s always space for more community partners and creative energy.

CHAW is especially excited that this new artistic opportunity is coming in the form of a youth choir, something we haven’t had on this side of the Hill in quite a while. Established in 2008, American Youth Chorus (AYC) is the Congressional Chorus’ after-school music program for students ages 8 to 14 from all over the Washington metropolitan area. Founded on the premise that all children, regardless of socioeconomic background, deserve a high-quality music education, AYC offers a performance-based choral program that encourages young people to develop their voices, creativity, and self-esteem in a fun and supportive environment. The curriculum focuses on healthy vocal production and technique, basic music theory, music sight-reading skills, singing in two- and three-part harmony, stage presence, cooperation within an ensemble, and artistic discipline.

Incorporating AYC into CHAW’s robust youth offerings was an easy choice. Over the past few months CHAW has been evaluating, reconstructing, and developing a new Youth Arts Program (YAP) that will be rolling out this fall alongside the partnership with AYC.This partnership feeds directly into the YAP core framework of creativity, confidence, and community, providing all of CHAW’s students with expanded opportunities to engage in both beginner and advanced classes that challenge them in diverse art forms such as ceramics, photography, drawing, painting, humanities, instrumental music, and dance. AYC’s residency at CHAW provides a welcome opportunity to expand affordable artistic opportunities in a safe and supportive environment that promotes personal, creative, and academic development.

Since CHAW’s inception in 1972 and AYC’s founding in 2008, these community-focused organizations have never turned a child away for inability to pay for an arts class. CHAW believes that 21st-century learning objectives are deeply connected to the techniques of art. With accessibility at their core, AYC and CHAW hope to level the educational playing field through dynamic programming and compassionate encouragement.

According to data from Americans for the Arts, while the arts are beneficial to all,they have a disproportionately positive impact on low-income students where high arts involvement among disadvantaged students is related to better professionalism, degree-earning, and a higher incidence of volunteerism. In other words, the wider community benefits from programs like CHAW and AYC reinforce our belief that a rising tide lifts all boats. Just as importantly another Americans for the Arts study measured the availability of arts opportunities across the country and found that underserved populations were getting less than half as much access as their more advantaged peers.

With CHAW growing its positive impact and providing greater access for Capitol Hill residents and the greater Washington community, it seems that a paradigm shift is in order, and we are looking forward to tackling the challenge together! We invite you to visit CHAW and look at the art, hear the voices of AYC, or just drop by and introduce yourself. Bring your kids to auditions or come to an upcoming AYC concert on Capitol Hill and support other kids in your neighborhood. Sign up for AYCand the Youth Arts program at CHAW and help your kids realize their creative potential!

We are all responsible for creating the kind of world in which we want to live. That world is full of creativity and limitless possibility for every child. What does your world look like? Share it with us @CHAWinDC and @YouthChorusDC with the hashtag #CreateYourCommunityDC. We can’t wait to hear your creative thoughts on how our community can take shape, and how we can be a part of helping to bring it to life through the arts, the most powerful connector we know.

Capitol Hill Arts Workshop offers classes, events, and arts opportunities for all ages. Find out more about the new Youth Arts Program, including dance, music, photography, visual arts, ceramics, and music, as well as early childhood, middle school, high school, and adult classes by visiting

American Youth Chorus primarily holds auditions on a rolling basis by request. Rehearsals will be held at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop on Tuesdays and Thursdays, depending upon age: Junior Division (ages 8 to 10), Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m.; Senior Division (ages 11 to 14), Thursdays from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. To learn more please visit

Teaching artist Laura Vucci and her young ballet students jump for joy in the CHAW dance studio. Photo: Leslie Mansour/Capitol Hill Arts Workshop
AYC students show off their musical chops and spirit of fun in concert. Photo: American Youth Chorus

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