On December 16, 1891, two months after Stanford University opened its doors, the first Stanford Orchestra was organized. It consisted of eleven members. More than a century later, the Stanford Symphony Orchestra has grown to over 100-member organization.
The Stanford Symphony Orchestra (SSO) is the largest on-campus student music organization, supported by the Department of Music and the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU). Membership is open to all members of the community, although priority is given to Stanford students. Every year, the SSO attracts a diverse membership ranging from computer scientists and aeronautics graduate students to English majors. Each spring, the members elect committee members who donate their time to run the orchestra, taking care of everything from finances to publicity. During the years when tours are planned, an expanded committee is responsible for organizing the tour.
The SSO rehearses twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. It presents approximately seven-concert programs each season. Winners of Stanford Symphony Orchestra’s annual Concerto Competition are regularly featured as guest soloists. In addition, the orchestra often collaborates with some of the world-renown artists, as well as performs in joint concerts with on-campus choral groups and the Stanford Wind Ensemble. Over the years, the orchestra has performed many major symphonic works and premiered numerous works by Stanford composers. The SSO has visited many countries around the world, including Japan, Singapore, and Korea in 1988, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Germany during its centennial tour in 1991, Australia and New Zealand in 2005, and China in 2008 as part of Beijing Olympic Cultural Festival.
In January 2013, the SSO moved into its new home on campus, Bing Concert Hall. In celebration of its new home, the SSO presented “The Beethoven Project” that season, featuring performances of all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies and all five of his piano concertos with Van Cliburn gold medalist Jon Nakamatsu. The Beethoven Project culminated with a tour of central Europe, dubbed “In Beethoven’s Footsteps,” with the SSO performing across Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria in the sites and cities most relevant to Beethoven.
In summer 2017 as the SSO toured Mexico and Cuba, it aimed to be a conduit for cultural exchange by presenting a diverse repertoire of “Music that Dances” — connecting music from different times and traditions.