On December 16, 1891, two months after Stanford University opened its doors, the first Stanford Orchestra was organized. It consisted of eleven members. More than a century later, the Stanford Symphony Orchestra has grown to a 90-member organization.

The Stanford Symphony Orchestra (SSO) is an on-campus student organization, supported by the Music Department and the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU). Membership is open to all members of the community, although preference is given to Stanford students. Every year, the SSO attracts a diverse membership ranging from local computer scientists and aeronautics graduate students to English majors.

Every spring, the members elect committee members who donate their time to run the orchestra, taking care of everything from finances to publicity. During years when tours are planned, an expanded committee is responsible for organizing the tour.

The SSO rehearses twice a week and presents approximately five concert programs on the Stanford campus each season. Winners of Stanford's annual Concerto Competition are regularly featured as guest soloists. In addition, the orchestra often performs in joint concerts with on-campus choral groups. Over the years, the Stanford Symphony Orchestra has premiered the works of numerous Stanford composers, formed the pit orchestra for many operas, and accompanied a variety of artists, including internationally renowned jazz saxophonist Stan Getz.