The Washington Metropolitan Gamer Symphony Orchestra (WMGSO) is a nonprofit community orchestra whose mission is to share video game music by putting on affordable, accessible concerts in the D.C. area.
Founded in 2012, the ensemble has grown to nearly 100 members between the orchestra and choir. WMGSO stages concerts three times a year: full ensemble concerts in the fall and spring and chamber concerts in the summer. Additional chamber performances occur at fundraisers, conventions, and community outreach events throughout the year.
In celebration of WMGSO’s five-year anniversary in 2018, the ensemble recorded its first professional album. WMGSO: The Album includes 12 tracks performed by the full orchestra and/or choir. Thanks to meeting crowdfunding stretch goals, an additional eight tracks of chamber music was released shortly thereafter as a download-only album, WMGSO: The Album DLC. Both albums are available for purchase online.
In the summer of 2012, several alumni of the Gamer Symphony Orchestra at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), the world's first permanent collegiate orchestra devoted exclusively to performing video game music, decided to continue their mission outside of the university setting. After more than a year of preparation, the board collected a repertoire and brought aboard Nigel Horne as the music director and conductor.
The group's first rehearsal in August 2013 consisted of approximately 15 instrumentalists and singers. Living Faith Lutheran Church, which graciously hosted WMGSO's first year of rehearsals, also hosted the orchestra’s first public performance in April 2014. Shortly after the second concert in June 2014, the IRS accepted WMGSO’s application to become a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
(above) WMGSO members pose for a group photo taken in December 2013 at Living Faith Lutheran Church, where the group rehearsed.
In 2015, WMGSO performed at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in front of a capacity crowd and at the first-ever Super Smash Con. Three years later, WMGSO performed on the mainstage at MAGFest in front of 2,000 attendees. In 2019, WMGSO collaborated with composer Tony Manfredonia on the North America debut of music from Kharon’s Crypt. WMGSO's home stage for the past few years is the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center.
(above) In January 2018, WMGSO performed at MAGFest in front of an audience of 2,000.
WMGSO has received grants from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County and the Maryland State Arts Council. This support has helped WMGSO afford rehearsal and performance space to bring video game music to larger audiences at an affordable price.
Why Video Game Music?
Game music weaves a tapestry of the traditions, values and mythos of video game culture. In it we find deep emotion and truths, as well as new ways of expressing ourselves that transcend the medium of games and stay with us for life.
Video game soundtracks largely escape recognition in professional musical circles. WMGSO is dedicated to showcasing this emerging art form and highlighting the virtuosity of its composers.
WMGSO Business Strategist Chris Apple shares his answer to one of our most frequently asked questions.
Why do we still tell the stories of Beowulf, Odysseus and Hamlet? Why do we still listen to Beethoven? There is something about them that makes us want to share; we find meaning in them. Meaning in art changes lives, and when you find that kind of meaning you know that others will benefit from it too, and that it needs to be shared.
It’s not the plot or the art or even the music itself that inspires us to share. In these games we find basic truths about life itself. We find ourselves, and new ways of thinking about and expressing ourselves. We find the same meaning that is found in other music, in novels, movies, and other literature, meaning that transcends the medium itself and stays with a person for life. Games are not just children’s toys, they often deal with serious adult ideas, like love, war, politics, religion, parenthood, and poverty. It has changed our lives and brought us happiness, and we know that our audience can find and cherish those truths as well. That makes those truths bigger than us, and compels us to present them to you.
Many of our audience are gamers, and many are not. You may not know the fantastic worlds, characters and stories that unfold in each of these video games. You may not know the gravity of saying that the last Metroid is in captivity, what it means to seek the Promised Land, or the humbling experience of becoming the Hero of Light. But you will know, because those ideas enshrine those basic truths which we will share through our music and our passion for it. Music is a language that bypasses words. It communicates in feelings, motion, color, and light. There is a truth in music itself which can express an idea far better than any statement. By listening to their music, you need not know anything about the games to know how it feels to have experienced them.
So why are we on this stage? Because our minds and our hearts leave us no other choice. This music, these games, this experience is bigger than us, and we want them to be shared as widely as possible, and succeed us when we are gone.