News & Politics

Washingtonian of the Year 2015: Joan Gregoryk

Gregoryk and three young Children's Chorus of Washington singers. Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Joan Gregoryk offers kids Bach, and they ask to come back to Bach. Her Children’s Chorus of Washington has youngsters from 9 to 18 singing classical music in schools, in concert halls, and at international festivals. Through the Sing DC program, she’s brought choral training to DC public and charter schools at no cost to students or the institutions. She has challenged kids to perform difficult pieces and relished their successes. Gregoryk started her first chorus as a music teacher at Chevy Chase Elementary. As that choir progressed to venues including Carnegie Hall, parents from other schools lobbied to get their kids into her choir. But the public-school teacher couldn’t afford to go out on her own. Only when she was close to retiring in 1995 could Gregoryk devote herself to forming the CCW, which includes the main chorus, prep classes, teacher education, a young-men’s ensemble, and Sing DC. It has toured the world from China to Chile, and Gregoryk has become a sought-after expert on children’s-chorus development. She plans to retire this year, but CCW will continue. “When children hear themselves producing this beautiful sound,” she says, “they want to be part of it.”

This article appears in our January 2016 issue of Washingtonian.