With roots stretching back to the 19th century, the Symphony Orchestra has built a legacy on providing quality performances of standard and distinctive repertoire to the southeastern part of South Dakota. Throughout its history the orchestra has evolved from its original 15 members to the sizeable ensemble it is today - comparable to any major symphony orchestra. Though mainly comprised of university music students, the orchestra is open to non-music majors as well as community members; all are welcome and highly encouraged to participate.
The orchestra premieres new music works four to five times per year, featuring both faculty and guest soloists, in two state-of-the-art campus facilities: the Knutson Theatre and the renovated Aalfs Auditorium. Performances encompass everything from the annual USD Holiday Concert to diverse theatre and opera productions for the College of Fine Arts. The orchestra also hosts a Spring Orchestra Festival that features high school students from throughout South Dakota and the tri-state area. Concerts that take place in the second semester highlight the winners of USD's Concerto/Aria Competition, and the final performance of the academic year is devoted to a combined piece for orchestra and chorus.