Prior to 1975, the orchestra program at St. Olaf College consisted of just the St. Olaf College Orchestra. A second orchestra was started in 1975 to accommodate the college’s growing numbers of younger string players. Thus the St. Olaf Chamber Orchestra began as a 12-member string ensemble. In 1996, when ensemble became a full-sized symphony orchestra, the name was changed from the St. Olaf Chamber Orchestra to the St. Olaf Philharmonia.
St. Olaf Philharmonia performs music from all periods, including repertoire for string orchestra, chamber orchestra and symphony orchestra. Rehearsing twice weekly, membership consists of first-year through senior students. Virtually every academic major offered on campus is pursued by one or more students in this musical organization. The concert season consists of a fall concert, a chapel service, and a spring concert, sometimes with a weekend tour.