About The San José Chamber Orchestra

Our Orchestra

The San José Chamber Orchestra (SJCO), a string based ensemble of 19+ players, presents a series of 7-9 programs per season. Many performances feature one or more commissions or world premieres by award winning composers with critically acclaimed guest artists as featured soloists. SJCO is the recipient of five ASCAP/League of American Orchestras Adventurous Programming Awards and has produced 5 CDs of new music.

The San José Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1991 out of the desire of local musicians (at the time playing with Opera SJ) for an opportunity to play chamber orchestra repertoire and explore music written by living composers. It’s formation was sparked by a challenge in the METRO newspaper from the late drummer Sammy Cohen to music director Barbara Day Turner, announcing that an orchestra was forming (unbeknownst to her) and privately saying to stop being lazy and get started. The SJ Chamber Music Society graciously sponsored the first concert and a board was formed shortly thereafter.

Highlights in our history have included, in no particular order:
    • The appearance, by special invitation, of our senior youth orchestra at a private event for the Dalai Lama.
    • Two prestigious Koussevitzky commissioning awards for new works by Hyo-Shin Na and Pablo Furman.
    • Recording our 5th CD at Skywalker Ranch.
    • Eleven years of creative programming with our partner CHORAL PROJECT in our annual Winter’s Gifts presentations.
    • Five years of partnering with sjDANCEco at the California Theatre.

Presenting short theatre/music pieces, including the mini-opera Waterbird Talk and the dramatic work Psyche and Eros.

Creating music with performers on both non-Western and classically non-traditional solo instruments, including the komungu, erhu, sitar, waterphone and accordion.


The mission of the San José Chamber Orchestra (SJCO) is to make music that matters by commissioning and premiering creative, relevant, communicative, moving and entertaining works from both emerging and established composers of diverse cultural and musical backgrounds and presenting them alongside more established repertoire. In addition, SJCO embraces the responsibility of providing young, emerging artists with opportunities to work with established musicians and composers in order to provide collaborative, creative environments that create connection to community and are key in the twenty-first century.


The San José Chamber Orchestra Youth Orchestra program, begun in 2001, now encompasses five orchestras serving approximately 110 young string players. This program is designed to equip young players with the skills needed for excellent performance, as well as instill disciplines useful in all areas of life and foster a wider appreciation of the arts. This program distinguishes itself through the strong mentoring relationship that the professional orchestra provides, giving students opportunities to work directly with professionals who coach sectional rehearsals, and through the annual "Side-by-Side" concerts, where the senior orchestra performs side-by-side with the members of the professional orchestra and the younger groups perform side-by-side with the seniors. The Senior YCO also works with a composer on a newly commissioned work each season, annually appears on a regular SJCO subscription concert, and makes a summer trip to New York City once every few years.