Timeline of Orchestras and Large Instrumental Ensembles (a work in progress). Items in red and italicized refer to ensemble formation outside of the US as a point of reference for when the first ensemble of its type was formed. Unbolded items list general development of the Western Orchestra worldwide. Please feel free to send me comments and corrections as needed at silpayamanant @ gmail.com.

This page is under reconstruction.

The featured image is the American Balalaika Symphony (formed in 2001).


c. 1600-1750 Baroque Orchestras (2fl 2ob 2bn 2hn 2tpt timp hpd org lute theorbo 8~10vnI 4~6vnII 4~6va 4~6vc 2~4db)

c. 1750-1800 Classical Orchestras (2fl 2ob 2cl 2bn 2hn 2tpt 2timp hpd org 12vnI 10vnII 8va 8vc 6db)

c. 1800-1850 Early Romantic Orchestras (picc 2fl 2ob 2cl 2bn cbn 4hn 2tpt 3tbn tba 2timp perc 14vnI 12vnII 10va 8vc 6db)

  • 1847  Tamburitza Orchestras – Pajo Kolarić formed the first amateur Tamburica Orchestra in Osijek

c. 1850-1900 Romantic Orchestras (1~2picc 3~4fl 3~4ob 3~4cl bcl 3~4bn cbn 4~8hn 3~6tpt 3~4tbn 1~2tba 4timp perc 16vnI 14vnII 12va 12vc 10db)

  • 1856 Fiddle Orchestras – Reel Players of Scotland, first orchestra of fiddle players to perform in concert halls
  • 1878 Bandurria Orchestra – Estudiantina Figaro founded in Madrid
  • 1880 Mandolin Orchestras – formation of Mandolin Orchestras in Italy eventually spreading throughout the world
  • 1881 Balalaika Orchestras – Vasily Andreyev formed the Great Russian Orchestra (note that the Vladimir [Oblast] Horn Players Orchestra was formed during the 1870s)

1887 Banjo Orchestras – Thomas Armstrong formed the American Banjo Club

1880s- 1920s Banjo Orchestras popular in the US

c. 1900 Modern Symphony Orchestra

  • 1900s Orquesta Típica – Orchestras/large ensembles that perform Tango music started to emerge in Argentina and Uraguay; by the 1920s

1900-1930 Mandolin, Balalaika, and Tamburitza Orchestras in the US start to rise in number, eventually reaching several hundred in number until The Great Depression

1908-1927 Film Orchestras – many of the largest movie theaters in the US had full symphony orchestra performing live scores to films. By 1927, with the advent of the “talkies” and sound in film practically all of these ensembles disappeared.

1920s – 1940s Big Bands become popular in the US

  • 1926 Armenian Folk Orchestra – the Aram Merangulian Orchestra formed in Yerevan
  • 1930 Belarusian Folk Orchestra- I.Zhynovich Folk Instruments Orchestra founded
  • 1931 Azerbaijan Folk Orchestra – Azerbaijan State Orchestra of Folk Instruments founded
  • 1934 Kazakh Folk Orchestra – Kurmangazy Orchestra founded
  • 1935 Traditional Chinese Orchestra – Central Broadcasting Station Chinese Orchestra in Nanjing formed, modeled after Western Symphony Orchestras
  • 1938 Uzbek Folk Orchestra – State Academic Orchestra of Traditional Instruments founded
  • 1939 Romanian Folk Orchestra – Fănică Luca forms first Romanian Folk Orchestra
  • 1939 Mongolian Folk Orchestra – Folk Instrumental Orchestra of the State Philharmonic Society of the Buryat-Mongolia ASSR founded
  • 1940s Arabic Orchestras – Orchestras modeled after Western ensembles with traditional instruments were formed in the decades after the various Cairo Congresses during the 30s
  • 1949 Moldavan Folk Orchestra –  Orchestra of Moldovan Folk Music and Dance formed
  • 1951 Bulgarian Folk Orchestra – Filip Kutev Ensemble formed
  • 1951 Hungarian Folk Orchestra – Hungarian State Folk Ensemble formed
  • 1953 Early Music Orchestras – Concentus Musicus Wien (Vienna, Austria) founded by Nikolaus Harnoncourt
  • 1957 Guitar Orchestras – Niibori Guitar Philharmonic Orchestra founded by Dr. Hiroki Niibori

1961 Chinese Music Ensemble of New York – the first full scale traditional Chinese Orchestra in the US

  • 1980 Fiddle Orchestras – Scottish Fiddle Orchestra formed

1983 Electric Guitar Orchestras – Glenn Branca writes his Symphony No. 3 for an orchestra of Electric Guitars and Percussion

1984 Soundpainting Orchestras – Walter Thompson founds the Walter Thompson Soundpainting Orchestra

  • 1987 Clarinet Orchestras – Tyrolean Clarinet Orchestra formed
  • 1988 Pan African Orchestra – Nana Danso Abiam founds the first Pan African Orchestras

1989 Latin American Orchestras – Orchestra of New Spain formed in the Dallas area. In 1990 the Pan American Symphony Orchestra would emerge in Washington DC.

  • 1992 Morin Khuur Orchestras – State Morin Khur Ensemble founded

1992 Intercultural Orchestras – Silk Road Ensemble (not to be confused with the Silk Road Project) formed in Bloomington, IN. Silk Road Project Ensemble founded by Yo-Yo Ma in 1998, by 2000 and 2001, the Multi-Ethnic Star Orrchestra of LA and the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra would be formed.

1994 Live-to-Projection Orchestras – Mon Alto Motion Picture Orchestra formed

2001 Balalaika Symphony Orchestras – The American Balalaika Symphony Orchestra includes symphonic percussion and winds

2002 Laptop Orchestras

  • 2003 Tuvan National Orchestra of Traditional Instruments founded

2005 Video Game Orchestras

2007 Mobile Phone Orchestras

  • 2011 Electric Guitar Orchestras – Sinfonity formed in Spain. Performs standard classical works
  • 2013 Nickelharpa Orchestras