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BMviolinsBased in Oakland, California, the Community Women’s Orchestra (CWO) was established in 1985 by conductor Nan Washburn. CWO is a volunteer, all-female ensemble of 60 – 70 musicians who enjoy a fun, welcoming, and non-competitive music-making environment.

CWO includes an entry-level ensemble called Strings Attached for beginning or “rusty” players, enabling even more women to participate.

Mission Statement

The Community Women’s Orchestra provides a fun, welcoming environment to promote women in music.


The Community Women’s Orchestra (CWO) was founded in 1985 by Nan Washburn as a community adjunct to the professional Women’s Philharmonic. Although the Women’s Philharmonic disbanded in 2004, the CWO continues to grow and flourish as an independent organization. In the past 28 years it has grown from the original six-member ensemble to more than sixty members. In recent years, CWO has collaborated regularly with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, including multiple performances at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, Brava Theater, touring to Santa Rosa and Miami, Florida, and CD and DVD recordings.


  • Dr. Kathleen McGuire (2005 – 2013)
  • Jessica Bejarano, assistant conductor (2009, 2011 – present)
  • June Bonachich, Strings Attached co-conductor (2010 – present)
  • Dr. Sandra I. Noriega, assistant conductor (2010 -2011), Strings Attached artistic director & co-conductor (2011 – present)
  • Yuchi Chou, assistant conductor (2008 – 2010)
  • Dana Sadava, assistant conductor (2007 – 2008)
  • Martha Stoddard, interim conductor (2004-2005)
  • Ann Krinitsky (1990 – 2001)
  • Nan Washburn, founder (1985 – 1990)

Repertoire: Women Composer Series

In an effort to bring more exposure to the works of historic and contemporary women composers, CWO performs at least one work by a woman composer on each of its programs. The orchestra provides a unique opportunity for women musicians to play seldom-performed works by women composers, while giving San Francisco Bay Area audiences the rare opportunity to attend performances of those works.

The CWO has been responsible for numerous regional, national, and world premieres of works by womens composers, including Juliette Folville and Ethel Smyth. CWO has previewed pieces by the three composers commissioned for the 25th Anniversary Season: Martha Stoddard, Hilary Tann, and Mary Watkins, and championed the work of emerging Bay Area composer, June Bonacich. Other women composers whose works CWO has performed include Jennifer Higdon, Gwyneth Walker, Cyndi McTee, Dione Tan, Clara Wieck Schumann, and Fanny Mendelssohn, to name but a few.


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