As a former member of the D.C. Youth Orchestra, I was disheartened to read Courtland Milloy's Jan. 8 column concerning the financial troubles and possible end of the DCYO.

In 1972 I was thrilled to be the principal tympanist of the orchestra and enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow young musicians as well as the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform on stage at the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center in New York. Although I did not aspire to a career in music, I have always treasured the personal enrichment gained by my brief stint in the DCYO. Unware of the financial aspects of running the program, most of us probably took for granted our opportunity to play, learn and grow.

Regarding the ultimate responsibility for funding the program, I support Mr. Milloy's position that the DCYO should not have to rely on any one person or agency -- governmental or educational -- to ensure its livelihood. After eight years of college and graduate school, concepts like "endowment," "alumni" and "annual giving" come to mind, and it seems to me that after 30 years there should be enough of us to contribute significantly so that this wonderful heritage will continue.

What we need is a well-organized alumni association to work toward that end. We were given a gift; now it's time to give back.