With its roots at the beginning of the 1930s, in its current form the University of Tartu Symphony Orchestra (Tartu Ülikooli Sümfooniaorkester, TÜSO) was born in 2009 and is the first adult amateur symphony orchestra in Estonia. The activity of the orchestra was interrupted during World War II; it came together again in the second half of the 1950s but was discontinued due to a lack of leadership. The leaders of its rebirth in 2009 were the then rector of the University of Tartu Alar Karis and the manager of the Tartu Students Club NGO Kulno Kungla. The orchestra consists of the students and alumni of the universities in Tartu, but also amateur musicians from other backgrounds.
The orchestra’s repertoire includes classical music, film music and new music composed especially for the orchestra. Every year, the orchestra performs at its traditional advent and spring concerts, but there are many other exciting cooperation projects as well. For several years, the University of Tartu Symphony Orchestra has participated in the gala concert of Tartu City Day; in the summer of 2015, it gave a concert at the Estonian Pavilion of World Expo in Milan.
During the tenth season after its revival, the orchestra celebrated its anniversary with Estonia’s national university, performing Pärt Uusberg’s composition for mixed choir and symphony orchestra …Windship with Oars of Light (“… ja tuulelaeval valgusest on aerud…”), dedicated to the 100th anniversary of our national university. In March 2019, the Estonian Classical Radio broadcast a radio concert of the orchestra at the concert hall of the Estonian Public Broadcasting. Besides regular performances, the University of Tartu Symphony Orchestra has also helped record the CD Reflections by the band X-Panda.
In addition to the assembly hall of the University of Tartu where the orchestra regularly rehearses and performs, it has also given concerts across the entire country from small cultural centers to the Estonia Concert Hall. Over the years, the orchestra has collaborated with various choirs and soloists: Reigo Tamm, Tanel Joamets, Tiit Joamets, Kärt Ruubel, Kädy Plaas, Maria Listra, Andreas Lend, Indrek Leivategija, Riivo Kallasmaa, Anna-Liisa Eller, Sven-Sander Shestakov, and other talented Estonian musicians. The orchestra has also premiered several new works by Estonian composers such as Pärt Uusberg, Lauri Jõeleht, and arrangements from famous pieces by Sven Grünberg.
In the years 2009–2016, the Chief Conductor of the orchestra was Lauri Sirp; its current Chief Conductor Taavi Kull took over in 2016.
The University of Tartu Symphony Orchestra was created to inspire people with an academic background to play an instrument and revitalize Tartu’s musical life. The orchestra is grateful to the University of Tartu and the Estonian University of Life Sciences for supporting their activities.