Symphony Orchestra


Welcome to the Iowa State University Orchestra Program homepage!

Symphony of Diversity 2022
Symphony of Diversity 2022

The first documented mention of a Symphony Orchestra at Iowa State University is found in the student yearbook of 1894, meaning there has been an organized orchestra on campus for over 125 years. From its earliest days as a small, student-led group, the ensemble has since grown into a full-size orchestra led by distinguished faculty, performing major symphonic, choral and operatic repertoire.

The ISU Symphony is open to everyone 

No matter what their major, all students at ISU are welcome to participate in the Symphony Orchestra. Admission is by audition. Zero preference or priority is given to music students: the ensemble admits and seats students on the basis of their ability alone. We admit students who have had years of private lessons and All-State orchestra experience, as well as those who only started playing in their high school orchestra. There are also scholarships available for highly-qualified string players. 

The ISU Symphony goes far beyond Ames 

Under the current Director of Orchestral Activities Jonathan Govias, the ISU Symphony Orchestra has returned to presenting annual concerts in C.Y. Stephens Auditorium after a hiatus of nearly two decades. The orchestra has also for the first time established a national, if not international footprint for its activities, with orchestral ensembles performing on both coasts of the US in 2022, most recently Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and a special featured concert at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Portland, OR. Orchestral ensembles were also twice featured in international broadcasts from the International Society of Music Educators biennial conference in Brisbane (ISME 2022). Regionally the orchestra has also expanded its activities within central Iowa, playing in Ottumwa, Des Moines and Marshalltown since fall of 2021 alone. 

The ISU Symphony goes far beyond Beethoven 

The ISU Symphony Orchestra performs music from all genres. This includes everything from the classics to concerts of movie soundtracks (Fall 2021) and video game scores (Fall 2022) as an essential part of its vision of what an orchestra should be. The symphony is also a leader in the presentation of historically underrepresented composers and historically underrepresented artists through its participation in the nationally-known Symphony of Diversity concert series, curated by Jonathan Govias.  

The ISU Symphony features the best ISU has to offer 

Performing as a soloist with the ISU Symphony is the most coveted opportunity for students in the Department of Music and Theater, earned through a rigorous, multi-stage competition for the privilege. Winners are typically featured in the first concert of the spring semester. 

The ISU Symphony is on social media 

Find the ISU Symphony on FacebookTwitter, Instagram (ISUSymphony) and YouTube. We post videos of performances, upcoming concert dates, and other information about our activities. Or you can just email at if you want to get in touch directly