The ensemble was founded as the University Chamber Band in 1954, when director of bands John P. Paynter began experimenting with flexible instrumentation in a single-player-per-part configuration. Renamed the Symphonic Wind Ensemble in 1969, the group began developing a reputation for innovation and artistic performance, honoring and expressing the orchestral training and tradition of Northwestern’s applied faculty.
Under the direction of Mallory Thompson, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble has participated in dozens of commissioning consortia and presented numerous world premieres, winning acclaim from composers John Adams, Michael Colgrass, John Corigliano, Karel Husa, Morten Lauridsen, David Maslanka, Jonathan Newman, Carter Pann, Joel Puckett, Joseph Schwantner, and Augusta Read Thomas. Alumni of the group are performing in professional ensembles around the world.
SWE has previously released seven albums, most recently Reflections in December 2017. This ensemble is open to music majors only.