The Stanford Symphony Orchestra is one of the America’s leading collegiate orchestras, with a distinguished history dating back to 1891, the year that Stanford University was founded. The SSO has a membership of approximately 100 musicians, presents about ten concerts annually on campus, and performs repertoire from the Baroque to the present, frequently with outstanding student and faculty soloists as well as renowned visiting artists. Recent SSO concerts led by Paul Phillips have included music by Adams, Barber, Berlioz, Bernstein, Brahms, Corelli, Debussy, Dukas, Dvorak, Fauré, Gershwin, Gounod, Grieg, Holst, Ibert, Jacob, Khachaturian, Korngold, Liszt, Mahler, Milhaud, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rossini, Saint-Saëns, Schubert, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Vaughan Williams, Wagner, and Walton, as well as contemporary works by Lera Auerbach, Adolphus Hailstork, Kaija Saariaho, and Zhou Tian plus Phillips's own music. Collaborations with Stanford Live have included concerts with Darlene Love, Nitin Sawhney, and Rob Kapilow, and the U.S. premiere of Danny Elfman’s Violin Concerto featuring soloist Sandy Cameron and guest conductor John Mauceri. In addition to the annual Halloween Concert in collaboration with the Stanford Wind Symphony, the SSO presents a joint concert with the Stanford Symphonic Chorus each winter and hosts the annual Concerto Competition to give talented Stanford students the opportunity to perform as orchestral soloists.
Stanford Philharmonia is a select chamber orchestra of about 40 musicians that performs concerts in Bing Concert Hall and venues throughout the Palo Alto vicinity. Its repertoire ranges from the Baroque to the present, frequently with outstanding student and faculty soloists as well as renowned visiting artists. Recent performances have included concertos with flutist Carol Wincenc, Stanford faculty artists Owen Dalby, Robin Sharp, Christopher Costanza, and Stephen Harrison. and multiple Concerto Competition winners. Special SP events have included a live performance of John Corigliano’s score for the film The Red Violin in collaboration with Stanford Live and The Brilliance of Bach at the Fox Theater in Redwood City as part of the Stanford in Redwood City Speaker Series. Recent SP concerts led by Paul Phillips have included music by Bach, Bartok, Beethoven, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Chopin, Dvorak, Elgar, Haydn, Mozart, Price, Prokofiev, Purcell, Ravel, Respighi, Schoenberg, Schubert, Still, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky, George Walker, Warlock, Vaughan Williams, Vivaldi, and Webern, as well as newer works by Anthony Burgess, Gordon Jacob, Lukas Foss, and Gabriela Lena Frank.
The Stanford Symphony Orchestra and Stanford Philharmonia are supported by the Department of Music and the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU). Membership is open to all undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and members of the Stanford community. Orchestra members major in a wide variety of fields ranging from music, history, and political science to engineering, aerospace and aeronautics, and computer science.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, live orchestral activity was initially replaced by two courses taught over Zoom, SSO Online and Orchestra Online, with weekly guests that included John Adams, Kronos Quartet, and Itzhak Perlman. Subsequently, Phillips led Stanford Philharmonia, SSO Strings, and SSO Winds online using JackTrip, an open source software application that enables live performances over the Internet with greatly improved accuracy and fidelity, with livestream performances presented in Winter and Spring 2021.