The Sibelius Academy is the only music university in Finland and one of the biggest in Europe. In addition to providing the highest level of education in the field of music, the Academy engages in performance, creative art, and research and is committed to fostering Finland's musical culture and cultural heritage. It also seeks active collaboration with Finnish society and participates in the development of culture.
The history of the SIBELIUS ACADEMY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA is as old as the Sibelius Academy itself (founded in 1882), but professional training did not start until 1916. The orchestra has been in its present form since the 1960s, and over the years has welcomed many distinguished conductors, such as Atso Almila, Paavo Berglund, Sir Colin Davis, Jussi Jalas, Arvid Jansons, Eri Klas, Jorma Panula, and Leif Segerstam. The orchestra has also been conducted by the talented students of the Conducting Class at the Sibelius Academy, including Mikko Franck, Sakari Oramo, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, and Osmo Vänskä.
One of the orchestra's greatest achievements was winning second place in the Herbert von Karajan competition in Berlin 1972. Additionally, the Finnish Ministry of Education named the Sibelius Academy Orchestral Education a Center of Excellence in the Arts in 1996 and 1997.
The orchestra is a member of the European Federation of National Youth Orchestras, which is comprised of the most distinguished pre-professional symphony orchestras in the European Union.
The musicians of the Sibelius Academy Symphony Orchestra are between 18 and 26 years old and engaged in the Master of Music Degree Program in Music Performance in the Department of Orchestral Instruments. The orchestra puts on four to five productions every academic year with different programs and conductors. Repertoire includes symphonic works as well as opera and music theater.
The Sibelius Academy Symphony Orchestra gives regular concerts in Helsinki and occasionally in other parts of Finland. It operates in coordination with, among others, the leading Finnish orchestras, the Finnish National Opera, and various art academies (for example, West Side Story in 1992 and Aulis Sallinen's Hobitti-ballet in 2001/02).
During the 1990s, the orchestra went on successful tours in Europe, China, Japan, and the United States. It has performed in Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Athens, London, Birmingham, Berlin, Vienna, Tokyo, Beijing, and New York's Carnegie Hall.
In the spring of 2005, the orchestra toured in a co-production with the Guildhall School of Music & Drama (London) and the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien, as the European Music Academies' Symphony Orchestra. Conducted by Sir Colin Davis, the Orchestra gave triumphant concerts in London, Vienna, and Lahti.