PLU's Musical Heritage

Historian Philip Nordquist reports that the first faculty member hired in 1892, as the fledgling academy was preparing to open its doors, was a music teacher, “the energetic musician Carlo Sperati.” Music has continued to be at the center of campus life since that time.

The University Symphony Orchestra has long been one of the most important centerpieces of a stunningly rich musical calendar. Unique among the musical ensembles on campus, the orchestra plays a role in every aspect of musical and ceremonial life at the university.

  • The Orchestras play 5 feature concerts during the academic year including music from the symphonic, concerto, ballet and operatic repertoires, from classical standards to new works, including an impressive list of world and regional premieres.
  • The Orchestras collaborate with students, faculty and guest artists, not only in their own concerts but in the pit for opera and theater productions and with PLU’s marvelous choirs.
  • The Orchestras travel, on their own and as part of the wildly popular PLU Christmas Concerts, representing the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the College of Professional Studies and the University throughout the region, overseas, and in convention performances.
  • The Orchestras celebrate with the campus community, opening and closing each academic year by providing music at the Opening Convocation on campus and during the Spring Commencement at the Tacoma Dome.

Our Ensembles

  • The University Symphony Orchestra is the primary orchestral ensemble at Pacific Lutheran University. With an annual roster of over seventy musicians, the USO performs 4 of the 5 major concerts on the School of Music, theatre & Dance’s “Orchestra Series.” Its repertoire is diverse, from early orchestral works of the 18th and 19th centuries to brand new literature. In fact, each year the USO performs at least two world or regional premieres, often of works written specifically for it. The USO also sponsors Student Showcase, a concerto competition for PLU students.
  • KammerMusikeren, Norwegian for “chamber musicians,” is the newest addition to the orchestral program at PLU. Its members are drawn from the roster of the USO to perform the fifth concert on the “Orchestra Series.” Recent travel destinations have included Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, Romania, Bulgaria, and Alaska.