Gamer Symphony Orchestra UMD
It should come as no shock that us n00bs are pretty big fans of all things video games, especially when it involves music.  Enter The Gamer Symphony Orchestra (GSO) at the University of Maryland.  What started as a small group of six people talking about video game music has in only five years blown up to a 120-piece ensemble that legitimizes video game music as an art form.

While the University of Maryland puts out some of the greatest minds of our times (Sergey Brin, Connie Chung, and of course myself), they also have quite the collection of musical talent as the GSO currently has over 100 musicians, including 30 singers.  In fact, the GSO is the first collegiate ensemble to pull all of their music exclusively from video games and probably most surprising of all is the fact that the majority of the members are actually non-music majors. Having been inspired by the work of other video game musicians and tours such as Video Games Live, Dear Friends (precursor to Distant Worlds), and Martin Leung (more commonly known as The Video Game Pianist), Michelle Eng founded the group in 2005, with their first public performance being the spring of 2006.

Gamer Symphony Orchestra Maryland Class
Being a student organization is no easy task by any stretch of the imagination.  The orchestra and chorus each rehearse at least two hours per week and almost all of the musical pieces are arranged in-house by both current and former members.  Anyone in the group can become an arranger and submit their work, but each piece is run through a rigorous critique by the group’s music committee (consisting of the music director, the orchestra conductors, choral conductor, and the Vice President) before it is accepted and put into the program for a given semester.

Over the years GSO has certainly put on some awesome shows, but in the past year they are really starting to get some attention.  In fact, on February 26, 2011, Tommy Tallarico (cofounder of Video Games Live) included an adapted piece of GSO’s arrangement for “Korobeiniki” also known as “The Tetris Song” during their show at the Strathmore with the National Philharmonic Orchestra.  Well the GSO did such a good job that when Video Games Live swings by the Strathmore on April 7,2012, they get to do it again, but this time with a Final Fantasy arrangement that hasn’t been named yet.

Just a few months ago during MAGFest X the GSO was having a grand ole time with their panel “Orchestral Game Music and Society” as well as playing in the jam space with in their own words a “small but enthusiastic audience”.  While having a panel and jamming might seem great already, Nobuo Uematsu and The Earthbound Papas strolled in and were given a personal serenading of “The Promised Land” from Final Fantasy VII.

Gamer Symphony Orchestra Nobuo Uematsu The Earthbound Papas
And in just a few weeks, the GSO will be putting on another amazing concert, this time as part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s The Art of Video Games exhibit.  Composer Austin Wintory even approached the GSO with an arrangement of his music for the game flOw which is featured in the Art of Video Games exhibit, further proving that the GSO is a legit group. On April 29th at 3pm make sure to swing by Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and relax to some classical video game music as they put on another free performance.

Definitely check out The Gamer Symphony Orchestra at the University of Maryland’s official page to listen to some of their music and subscribe for future news and events. While you are at it, if you got some extra money, buy some swag or donate because the organization is a completely student run organization.  By supporting them you help to promote the group and help keep them going by helping cover their related costs.  Remember all of their shows are free!

If anyone wants to meet up for the concert, let us know either with a comment or on twitter for some good times.  For now check out a snippet from their spring 2011 concert at the University of Maryland, playing some music from two of my favourite game soundtracks, Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross.

Related posts:

    Smithsonian American Art Museum Interviews Tommy Tallarico of Video Games Live
    Creating a Market for the Rising Female Gamer
    My New Year's Resolution as a Gamer for 2012
    Smithsonian American Art Museum – Call for Video Game Images
    Living in the Past: Taking An Adult Swim Through Our Gamer Hearts
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About Matt Smith

A gamer, BJJ/Muay Thai practitioner, an anime junkie, and a ginger too boot! Been a gamer since I was 5, rocking it on my dad's Atari 2600. Hit me up on XBL/PSN CopTop1