The orchestral program at ASU has a long tradition of artistic excellence and performances by the ASU Orchestras are regularly recorded for future radio and video broadcast. Much of the world's greatest symphonic literature has been performed by the ASU Orchestras, including Richard Strauss' Don Quixote, Death and Transfiguration, Four Last Songs and Til Eulenspiegel, as well as symphonies by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. The orchestra has also performed such virtuoso showpieces as Respighi's Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals; Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol, Scheherazade and Russian Easter; Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis and Mathis der Maler; Holst's The Planets; and Stravinsky's ballets the Firebird, Petrushka and Rite of Spring.
In recent seasons the ASU Orchestras have become national leaders in terms of innovative programing that expands what the symphonic experience can be and have premiered and commissioned numerous new works. In an effort to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion through music and the arts, the ASU Orchestras aim to provide creative opportunities for underrepresented composers and performers, reaching an ever-increasing and diverse audience. In 2019, in collaboration with ASU Gammage, the ASU Symphony produced “Towards a More Perfect Union” a theatrical concert around themes of social justice and immigration, advancing the conversation of the role of the orchestra within larger social contexts.
The orchestral program aims to extend student learning and bring world class artists to the valley through valuable interactions with professional artists. Guest artists have included renowned faculty performers and other celebrated professional collaborators including:
- Conductors Marin Alsop, Karina Canellakis, Lukas Foss, Giancarlo Guerrero, Tito Muñoz, Vincent Persichetti, Carl St.Clair,
- Composers PDQ Bach, Elliot Cole, Phillip Glass, Tonia Ko, , Jessie Montgomery, Narong Prangcharoen, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Carlos Simon, Gunther Schuller
- Berimbau Ensemble Arcomusical
- Cellists Colin Carr, Stephen Kates and Lazlo Varga
- Guitarist Manuel Lopez Ramos
- Spoken word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph
- Oboist Alex Klein
- Pianists Victor Borge, Gilbert Kalish, Ursula Oppens, Jeffrey Siegel, André Watts
- Sitar Master Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan
- Trombonist Joseph Alessi
- Vocalists Anna Christy, Martha Gonzalez, Isola Jones, Faye Robinson, Jubilant Sykes
- Violinists Andrés Cárdenes, Glenn Dicterow, Jorja Fleezanis, Steven Moeckel, Szymon Goldberg, Dylana Jenson, Ani Kavafian and Edvard Melkus
The ASU Orchestras collaborate with the ASU Choirs on a regular basis performing large scale choral orchestra works including Bernstein Chichester Psalms, Brahms Requiem, Orff Carmina Burana and Mahler Symphony No. 2. Most recently, in honor of the Bernstein Centenary, the ASU Symphony Orchestra presented a fully-staged production of Bernstein Mass featuring Jubilant Sykes as the Celebrant and bringing together over 300 performers and collaborators including the ASU Choral and Music Theatre and Opera programs, the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the Phoenix Boys’ Choir. Called a “masterpiece of artistic collaboration” by Broadway World Arizona, it was one of the largest scale interdisciplinary collaborations ever seen in Arizona.
Former members of the ASU orchestras are now performing in many of this country's finest symphony orchestras including those in Phoenix, Detroit, Indianapolis, Rochester, Minnesota and Cleveland, as well as the Metropolitan Opera.
Founded by Miles Dresskell, the ASU orchestras have been led by former directors Eugene Lombardi, Henry Charles Smith, Timothy Russell.