The strong tradition of ensemble music-making at St. Olaf College dates back to 1893, when the St. Olaf Band presented its first concert at the Northfield City Park. F. Melius Christiansen, founder of the music department and the famed St. Olaf Choir, assumed leadership of the St. Olaf Band in 1903 and led the group on its first tour in 1904. Christiansen took the band to Norway in 1906, thus making it the first American college musical organization to conduct an overseas concert tour.
Today St. Olaf College is home to eight choirs, two bands, and two full orchestras — including the internationally acclaimed St. Olaf Band, St. Olaf Choir, and St. Olaf Orchestra. St. Olaf ensembles perform regularly at state and national music conventions, and faculty members appear as presenters, clinicians, and conductors at conferences and festivals around the world. Additional performing opportunities include three jazz bands, Early Music Singers and Collegium Musicum, two handbell choirs, and numerous chamber ensembles.