In 1965, four women—Dorothy Chandler, Muriel Morse, Helen Nix and Kay Wilson—spearheaded the founding of the Committee of Professional Women for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, acting on the suggestion of Ms. Marion Burke, Mrs. Chandler’s Executive Assistant. The Founding Committee was composed of twenty-two outstanding women from various businesses and professions in greater Los Angeles. Best known among the original members was Edith Head, the Academy Award Winning Costume Designer.
Music education has been a cornerstone of our mission, so it is no surprise that the genesis of today's UPBEAT LIVE was the Committee's own preview programs. In the early 70’s, COPW members attended concerts together, and to educate the members in symphonic music, COPW President Anita Priest arranged for experts to give talks before each concert. These talks became so popular that they evolved into the UPBEAT LIVE lectures that all LA Phil patrons enjoy today at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
For almost 50 years, COPW has carried on the spirit of our founders as a community of professional women who share a passion for classical music and a desire to support the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Today COPW continues to attract professionals, both working and retired, who love music and the arts. The roster includes nearly 100 active members, and COPW opened membership to men in 1999.
A Look Back at our Founders
By Jackie Johns
Each Roster lists COPW’s founding members, but many of our current members don’t know who they were. As a long time member I had the privilege of knowing some of them. Interviews with Marian Burke and my own memories are the source of the following look back at COPW’s beginnings.
MARIAN BURKE worked for the Managing Director of the Mirror newspaper for 4 years until Dorothy Buffum Chandler spotted her and made her an offer she could not refuse, as her personal assistant, a position happily occupied by Marian for more than over 30 years. Marian was instrumental in convincing Mrs. Chandler that professional women loved classical music just as much as homemakers and would probably deliver more in volunteer service. Click here to read an article about Marian from the Ojai Valley Visitors Guide.
MURIEL MORSE was an inspired choice for Founding President in 1965. Her prestige and her requirement that each new COPW member bring in ten friends built the membership to more than 200 in just two years. When I came to Los Angeles in 1969 as a young bride, my mother, who was very active in the Women’s Council of the LA Chamber of Commerce, introduced me to Muriel, who became my mentor. Muriel was the top woman executive in the City of Los Angeles as head of all personnel for the City and she helped me to find work in public relations. When she learned of my love for music she invited me to a COPW event at the home of Gail Patrick Jackson, a beautiful actress who had become the producer of the Perry Mason TV series. At that event I met Edith Head, Justice Mildred Lillie, and a number of other LA executives. Needless to say I couldn’t wait to join such a group!
Later I came to know Muriel even better through Soroptimist. She had been president of the local club.
Four of the next five presidents were COPW Founding members, and I knew all of them. 1965-66 was SALLY GRAY, an advertising manager of the Carnation Corp.; 1966-67 was MARY MC CARROLL, a very successful attorney in practice with her husband; 1967-68 was MARGARET THOMPSON, an educator at UCLA. Margaret lived near me, so I often picked her up and took her to events when she could no longer drive. 1969-70 was MONICA COULTER MICCICHE, an executive with the Biltmore Hotel who married local politician Joe Micciche. (Needless to say COPW had a lot of events at the Biltmore.)
From the movie industry came EDITH HEAD, who still holds the record for most Oscar nominations and wins by any woman in the film industry—in front of or behind the camera.
From government came LAUREL ROENNAU, the only woman on the local Board of Airport Commissioners. Since one of my jobs was doing the Annual Report of the Department of Airports, I had the opportunity to work with this brilliant, charming woman.
The only other two I knew were LAURA WALTERS, a department store executive, and LOIS GAINES with SAS Airlines as a travel planner, both outstanding in their fields.
Marian Burke knew all of them, of course, and she well remembers: DR. LOUISE WOOD SEYLER, a school superintendent; MRS. ELTON TERRY, also an education executive; DR. MURIEL DUNCAN, a physician who passed away in 2009; and two bankers, EVELYN BORNING with Union Bank, and AGNES BLOMQUIST, vice president of a Newport Beach bank.
The Committee of Professional Women is very proud of the many contributions we make on behalf of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. We provide hundreds of volunteer service hours, advance the mission of the LA Phil through season subscriptions, provide outreach by donating tickets for underserved youth, and the Committee’s annual gift is made possible by membership dues and events.
Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Library
One of COPW's most cherished traditions is the donation of an orchestral score to the LA Phil each year to honor our outgoing president. Since 1965 [not 1966], COPW has donated more than 55 scores to the Philharmonic Library, helping to keep classical music alive. The Committee is proud to have contributed scores from every genre, from baroque to modern, that have been performed here at home and around the world. It is always a joy to hear a COPW score performed by the LA Phil.
Click here for the full list of scores.
Financial support beyond requirements for membership is strictly voluntary. Over the years, COPW members have given generously to a number of LA Phil initiatives, including:
Walt Disney Hall Campaign Fund
Philharmonic Friends Campaign
Affiliates Endowment Campaign
Student Tickets Donations
YOLA Instrument Drive
GOLD BOOK AWARD WINNER
In 2008, COPW was one of four recipients nationwide to receive the League of American Orchestras’ prestigious Gold Book Award for outstanding volunteer project in the Audience Development/Community Engagement category.
Our project, entitled “Opening the Concert Hall for Disadvantaged Children,” brings children residing in group homes to the Toyota Symphonies for Youth (TSFY) concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The project is designed to be both educational and life enhancing, enabling at-risk youth to experience the joy of music, the excellence of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the elegant and inspiring space of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Since COPW began purchasing TSFY tickets in 2005, 160 children, dependents of the Children’s Court of the Superior Court of California, who would have not otherwise been able to attend, have now heard the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform.
The TSFY program is an ongoing project of COPW. Thanks to the support of the entire membership, we are committed to providing youngsters residing in group homes with the opportunity to experience and to enjoy fine music in a beautiful setting.
In 2012, COPW was again recognized by the League of American Orchestras with a Gold Book Award. This time it was as a result of COPW's Instrument Drive for the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA). This campaign netted 51 donations for a total of $4257 which was used for over 50 instrument purchases. COPW also collected a number of used instruments as well as music stands, metronomes, tuners, drum heads, strings, and rosin.