About ACWC

Mission Statement

The ACWC/AFCC wishes to build on the achievements of the past, encourage women and women-identified composers of the present and develop a body of well researched, catalogued and preserved archival material accessible to students, researchers and performers in the future.

It would like to increase and broaden its membership base to reflect the varied cultures, which have made their home here, and to raise its profile in the Canadian and International Music scene.

Déclaration d’Intention 

L’Association des femmes compositeurs canadiennes (AFCC/ACWC) est la seule association professionnelle des compositrices et des musiciennes au Canada. L’AFCC promeut assidûment la musique écrite par des femmes canadiennes à l’aide des concerts et des représentations ; elle entretient un site web (www.acwc.ca) pour la promulgation des membres. Par ailleurs elle publie à la fois un journal semestriel et un e-bulletin mensuel qui soulignent des activités et des articles d’intérêt à ses membres. Elle avance l’éducation du public sur le plan national et international en ce qui concerne l’authenticité des compositrices , en leur offrant un réseau d’appui; elle aide ces femmes à réaliser leur potentiel créateur d’artiste.

History of ACWC

The ACWC was founded in September of 1981 by Carolyn Lomax, who met with a handful of Toronto composers – Ann Southam, Mary Gardiner, Maggie Burstyn and others – for an initial gathering of interested women composers. It was fueled by a desire to fill a void in the Canadian music scene: the absence of women  composers in concert programming across the country.

There were women composers across Canada who were unaware of one another, had no network of support, no spokesperson and no means to have a method of advocacy for their own music.

Early meetings in members’ homes formed the kernel of the organization which eventually came to be called the Association of Canadian Women Composers/l’Association des femmes compositeurs canadiennes (ACWC/AFCC).  Ann Southam was Chair and Mary Gardiner was Secretary/Treasurer. Membership then consisted of composers mainly living in Toronto.

The first Annual General Meeting took place in Guelph in 1982, the following year in Hamilton and eventually the Association began to grow into a national organization as more members joined.

A Directory of all Members was published in 1987. Currently the membership stands at 60, representing women across Canada and a few Canadians living abroad. We are engaged in a vigorous membership drive to boost our numbers.

ACWC Today

The Association of Canadian Women Composers/l’Association des femmes compositeurs canadiennes (ACWC/AFCC) is the only professional association of women composers and musicians in Canada. It actively supports music written by Canadian women, maintains a Website for the promotion of its Members (www.acwc.ca) and publishes a bi-annual Journal highlighting activities and articles of interest to Members.

It supports educational activities, which promote the history of music by women in Canada, and maintains an Archive of over 120 years of materials related to the music of Canadian and other women composers.

The ACWC is a not-for-profit organization run by a volunteer Board and has no paid employees. Primary funding support comes from membership fees and donations. The ACWC has received funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the SOCAN Foundation to develop and maintain a website and to partner with organizations and performers in order to present concerts and events promoting music of our members.

We are affiliated with and supported by the Canadian Women Composers’ Foundation. The ACWC/AFCC is also a reciprocal member of the International Alliance of Women in Music.

Promotional Activities

ACWC supports concerts of members’ music throughout Canada and beyond, including Toronto, Hamilton, Waterloo, Montreal, Halifax, Vancouver, and elsewhere.  ACWC music is being heard around the word, with current initiatives taking ACWC music to parts of Europe and USA.  The showcasing of ACWC music in New York City by Sandbox Percussion is but one example.

Annual General Meetings, now held online, were formerly held in different cities across Canada, often featuring concerts, panel discussions, listening sessions and networking.


(left: ACWC member Mary Gardiner with Aline Crétien)

The ACWC 20th Anniversary Festival: Then, Now and Beyond, A Festival of Music by Women was a major collaboration between the Ottawa Chamber Music Society and the Universities of Ottawa and Carleton in 2002, with concerts recorded for broadcast by the CBC.


Educational and Archival Activities

Canadian women composers’ works are increasingly programmed throughout Canada, with a growing number of women teaching music and composition in universities, colleges or other accredited musical institutions.

The earliest published work by a Canadian woman, The Canada Union Waltz for piano, “By a Canadian Lady” who remains anonymous, dates from 1841.  But the archives of the Ursuline Monastery in Quebec contain sophisticated works by their nuns possibly dating back to the seventeenth century.

And few people know that Canada’s second national anthem, “Hockey Night in Canada” was written by Dolores Claman in 1968.

However, there is still a vast and rich array of music by Canadian women composers, which is not yet fully known, widely heard or well enough distributed. The ACWC has an accumulated an Archive of material which is unique in Canada consisting of some of this music, recordings, LPs, tapes, interviews, correspondence, course materials, music and other ephemera which it would like to preserve, catalogue and eventually make it accessible to the public, to schools and to further research.