The CLEVELAND WOMEN'S ORCHESTRA was formed in 1935 to give women with a desire for a musical outlet the opportunity to participate in an orchestral experience. HYMAN SCHANDLER, the founder, was motivated by the dearth of women then participating in symphony orchestras. The Cleveland group survived to become the oldest women's orchestra in the United States and the world. Schandler, a violinist with the CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA for forty-eight years, served as principal conductor of the Cleveland Women's Orchestra for more than half a century. With the encouragement of his wife, Rebecca White Schandler, a musician in her own right, he kept the enterprise alive almost single-handedly. A core group of seventy-five women, ranging in age from sixteen to seventy, representing housewives, nurses, students, teachers, secretaries, etc., practiced and performed a minimum of five benefit concerts annually throughout the Cleveland area in locations such as hospitals, senior citizens' homes, and social-service agencies.
The orchestra presents an annual spring concert at SEVERANCE HALL, and has featured such soloists as Eunice Podis, Lynn Harrell, ARTHUR LOESSER, Linda Cerone, DANIEL MAJESKE, and Jan Peerce. Among the orchestra's many premieres were the Concerto for Piano in C Minor by Otar Taktakishvili and the first Cleveland performance of Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.
Rebecca Schandler died on April 18, 1985. Upon the death of Hyman Schandler in 1990, Robert L. Cronquist became conductor and music director of the Cleveland Women's Orchestra. In 2007, the orchestra's office was located at 2315 Warrensville Center Road.