In 2000, two friends, Joyce Cunningham and Duane Bowen, decided to start a reading orchestra for fun and friendship.  The group met to read music together at Providence Point.  Joyce generously donated her music library to the group and Dr. Bowen served as the first conductor.  From this original reading group of six people, the Issaquah Chamber Orchestra was born.  The Issaquah Chamber Orchestra began performing free public concerts in 2003.  The first public concert was given on November 24, 2003 at Providence Point.  Dr. Bowen served as the original conductor, Nona Martin was the original Concert Master, and Joyce Cunningham served as the first Personnel Manager and Librarian.

The group continued to grow.  By 2010 the group had grown to the point of no longer being a chamber ensemble and the name was changed to the Issaquah Philharmonic Orchestra.  On February 17, 2012, the Issaquah Philharmonic Orchestra became a 501C3 Non-profit Corporation.

As an all-volunteer non-profit community orchestra, the IPO still holds true to its founding ideals of music for fun and friendship.   The orchestra is very welcoming and has members of many backgrounds and ages.  Orchestra members range in age from high school students to people in their nineties.  The IPO makes a special effort to reach out to families with young children and seniors in the community.  All concerts are free and musicians come out during intermission to talk with any interested audience member about their instruments while sharing free juice and cookies.

The orchestra owes a great debt of gratitude to Dr. Bowen who generously ran the group with a personal business license until the group evolved into a non-profit corporation.  Dr. Bowen has been recognized and honored for his leadership by being named Conductor Emeritus of the Issaquah Philharmonic Orchestra.

Our Conductors

  • Dr. Duane Bowen 2003–2011
  • Dr. Eric Hanson November 21, 2011 Concert
  • Joshua Zimmerman, Interim Music Director/Conductor 2012-2013
  • Chase Chang 2013 to 2016
  • Dr. Duane Bowen 2016 to present

Our Assistant Conductor

  • Dr. Nse Ekpo 2018 to present

Our Concert Masters

  • Nona Martin 2003-2006
  • Mary Louise Davis 2006-2007
  • Darlene Rose 2007- 2015
  • Hans Klein 2015 (March 16th Concert)
  • Darlene Rose 2015 – 2018
  • Kathryn Zufall  2018 (March 19th Concert)
  • Darlene Rose 2018 (May 21st Concert)
  • Micah Knight 2018 (December 3rd Concert)

Our Music Director/Conductor – Dr. Duane Bowen

Duane photo

Dr. Duane Bowen, the founding conductor of the Issaquah Philharmonic Orchestra, retired from a career in music education with wide experiences both performing in and conducting school, community, and professional orchestras and church choirs.

After several years of conducting high school bands and orchestras, he became professor of music at Eastern New Mexico University where he was a woodwind specialist, teacher of conducting, and associate conductor of the university band and orchestra. Dr. Bowen has performed with several orchestras including the Baton Rouge and the New Orleans symphonies in Louisiana; the Jackson, Mississippi Symphony; the Roswell, New Mexico symphony; and the Sammamish Symphony. He has performed as a bassoon soloist with the ENMU Symphony, and has also performed in concert on flute, oboe, and saxophone. Dr. Bowen served as interim director of the Sammamish Symphony in 1999. Along with conducting the Issaquah Philharmonic Orchestra, Dr. Bowen is the bassoonist with a local woodwind quintet and saxophonist with the Redmond swing band Sophisticated Swing.

Our Assistant Conductor – Dr. Nse Ekpo

The IPO is excited to welcome our first Assistant Conductor, Dr. Nse Ekpo!

Dr. Ekpo has conducted internationally in China with the Beijing Opera Theatre, in Japan on tour with the University of Washington Wind Ensemble, and guest conducted with the Pazardjik Symphony Orchestra in Pazardjik, Bulgaria. He earned a Doctorate in Orchestral conducting from the University of South Carolina and studied with the late Peter Eros, former conductor of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the late Gustav Meier of the Peabody Conservatory.  Dr. Ekpo currently serves as the Band Director at the Lakeside School in Seattle.

In addition, Dr. Ekpo has published Expanding the American Cannon (2015) which features the available orchestral works composed by African-Americans and developed music programs in a variety of settings including a music program for homeless children in Seattle at The First Place School.

Dr. Ekpo will be joining the IPO with the start of the 2018-2019 season.

Our Board of Directors

  • President – Sue Byron 
  • Vice President – Joan Griswold
  • Secretary – Denise Larson
  • Treasurer – Ryan Pladson
  • Personnel – Brennah Kelly
  • Concertmaster – vacant
  • Conductor – Dr. Duane Bowen
  • Member-at-Large – Ratchford Higgins
  • Member-at-Large – Leslie Ferrari