Since its conception in 1983, the Canadian Composers Orchestra has been a vital cultural conduit for emerging Canadian art music. The initiative was first undertaken by the Canadian Composer Samuel Dolin in the spring of 1983 who along with several other composers and musicians laid the foundation of what eventually became the The Canadian Contemporary Music Workshop & Composers Orchestra. As the founding artistic director, Mr. Dolin facilitated an annual series of lectures, readings, and concert performances of new orchestral and chamber music primarily directed towards emerging Canadian Composers.
In 1987 one of Dolin's former students Gary Kulesha accepted the role of Artistic Director which continued until 2003. Under the direction of Mr. Kulesha, the ensemble achieved prestigious national and international prizes including the SOCAN Young Composers awards and the International Rostrum of Composers. Recordings from this time were presented by CBC Records. Gary Kulesha remains one of Canada's most active composers and on faculty at the University of Toronto.
In December of 2003, Gary Kulesha passed the torch to three promising young composers, Craig Galbraith, Andrew Staniland, and Abigail Richardson who would become the Managing Artistic Advisory Board. Under their direction the CCMW established unique opportunities for emerging Canadian composers to have their work reviewed, evaluated and performed by professional performers in conjunction with concert performances. These interactions established vital connections between young composers and the professional community at large. Abigail Richardson--Schulte went on to become the Composer in Residence with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, where she established the HPO Composer Fellowship Program and continues to promote and foster the development of Canadian Artists and their music.
In 2020 Abigail Richardson--Schulte transferred the organization into the hands of Canadian Composer Andrew James Clark, and while much has changed since 1983, the mandate of the Canadian Composers Orchestra has remained the same: to promote and programme emerging composers in combination with the pre-existing body of repertoire that comprises the rich history of Canadian Music. The future will see the COC benefit from Andrew's proven skills in concert presenting, artistic direction and execution of contemporary art music.
Under Andrew's leadership, the Canadian Composers Orchestra will explore new methods of music promotion and artistic presentation more suitable for our new digital age, while simultaneously preserving and maintaining the historical integrity of the organization for the next generation to come.