The NIH Community Orchestra is an all-volunteer organization founded in 1996 to bring together the musical talent of NIH and the surrounding community. There are no auditions for membership; all musicians are welcome, and NIH affiliation is not required (please see the membership page for current instrument restrictions). The group is currently directed by Richard Scerbo. The directors work closely with members in a warm and nurturing environment.
The NIH Community Orchestra rehearses weekly on Wednesday evenings at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Rockville. At this time, the NIHCO typically performs four concerts per year. The orchestra's concert repertoire encompasses many periods, nationalities, and styles, featuring composers such as Beethoven, Bartok, Vaughan Williams, Copland, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov.
The NIH Community Orchestra is affiliated with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland and is supported in part by the NIH Recreation and Welfare Association (R&W). Proceeds from its concerts benefit the charities of NIH and, as a club organization of the R&W, it is a tax-exempt charitable organization. For their outreach activities, the NIHCO has been nominated a number of times for the Acacia Federal Bank's "Nice Guys Awards".
NIH Community Orchestra is supported in part by funding from the Montgomery County government and the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County. The orchestra also supports its operations and performances through membership dues and individual donations. Visit our secure donation page to make a contribution online.
Over a half century, there have been a number of orchestras that have formed at the National Institutes of Health. The current NIH Community Orchestra is the fourth one, founded in 1996 by Gary Daum. Recent concert rosters have included more than 70 musicians with full symphony orchestra instrumentation and full chorus, making this the largest to date.
The NIH Community Orchestra (known initially as the NIH Chamber Orchestra) began meeting in October 1996 to provide an orchestral outlet for the rich and diverse musical talent of the NIH and HHS research community. In the following year, it added woodwinds and brass and quickly expanded its size and repertoire. The group's first major concert was the first NIH Messiah Singalong on December 21, 1997. For its role in the project, the NIHCO received a 1998 Award of Excellence from the NIH R&W.
For most of its existence, the NIH Community Orchestra rehearsals and concerts were held in the Masur Auditorium of the Clinical Center at NIH. Unfortunately, the events of September 11, 2001 and the security measures that followed at NIH caused us to lose our rehearsal and performance facilities. Thanks to the tenacity of the NIHCO musicians, the December Messiah concert was not only performed on schedule, it became among our greatest musical triumphs.
In its June 2002 concert, former associate conductor Jesse Parker presented the world premiere of Psalm 9:11, a composition by NIHCO founder Gary Daum as a musical reflection on the events of September 11, 2001. The performance represented one of the first 9-11 related orchestral compositions to be performed in the US (and the entire world). Psalm 9:11 continues to be performed by various choirs and ensembles around the Washington DC area.