Who We Are

Excitement is in the air at the Kennedy Center Opera House, where the world famous Mariinsky Ballet’s Swan Lake is about to begin.  A young audience member stands looking down into the orchestra pit and gets a smile from a nearby musician. She returns the smile, and then asks, “Do you speak English?” The trombonist replies “Of course! “

The house lights dim and the unseen oboist in the orchestra pit sounds a single pitch. His voice is joined by that of the woodwinds, the brass, and the strings as they tune their instruments. The evening’s conductor makes his way through the pit, acknowledges the audience’s applause, and lifts his baton. With a wave of his hand, the performance begins. Music fills the hall, but the musicians are nearly invisible to you. Who are they? Have they travelled here all the way from St. Petersburg, Russia?

Actually, we live in this community--perhaps just down the street from you. We are the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, one of the two resident orchestras at the Kennedy Center. Our 63 full-time professional musicians perform in all the theaters of the Kennedy Center, providing accompaniment for opera, ballet, musical theater and special events.  We perform for the Washington National Opera, as well as American Ballet Theater, Royal Ballet, the Mariinsky Theater, Bolshoi Ballet and many more. Since our establishment in 1978, the KCOHO has been honored to collaborate with many of the greatest dancers, singers and conductors of our time, such as Placido Domingo, Suzanne Farrell, Anna Netrebko, Misty Copeland, Renée Fleming, André Previn, Jose Carreras, Valery Gergiev, to name just a few.

Among our membership you will find a math major from Princeton, an art history major from Harvard, a statistics major from UC Berkley, a hornist who spends her free time on a flying trapeze, a competitive archer who is a 3 time state champion and record holder, a skilled carpenter and building contractor, a bassoonist who has performed in Australia, Kuala Lumpur AND in a hot air balloon, a competitive equestrienne, a trumpet player/conductor who has founded a burgeoning music festival in Miami, and many more fascinating and multi talented people. Come down to the pit and say hello to us next time you are enjoying a performance in the Opera House, Eisenhower or Terrace Theater!

The WNO orchestra…was so compelling that the singing seemed only of secondary importance.” The Washington Post

Read more about the KCOHO here.