Between 1990 and 1999, Goffredo Haus (Director of the Laboratorio di Informatica Musicale) and Alfio Bosatra (Head of Cultural Activities at the University’s ISU) promoted the formation of chamber music ensembles, with the aim of giving students at the University of Milan the opportunity to perform music. The training work of composer Angelo Paccagnini enables the start of a regular concert activity, the Spring Concerts.

In the spring of 1999, the Student Orchestra of the University of Milan was formed, supported by Rector Paolo Mantegazza. Made up of recent graduates from various Conservatories and students of the University who had graduated from the Conservatory, selected by audition, the Orchestra held its first public concert, conducted by Alessandro Crudele, at the Auditorium in via Valvassori Peroni.

In 2000, the Associazione Orchestra dell’Università degli Studi di Milano was established, chaired by Goffredo Haus, with the musical direction of Alessandro Crudele, the general direction of Alfio Bosatra and the artistic direction of Daniele Gay. In spring 2000, the Orchestra organised its first official concert in the Aula Magna of the University. In November of the same year, its first season kicked off, featuring four symphonic concerts (broadcast by the television station SEImilano) and seven chamber music concerts.

Already in its second season, the Orchestra introduced pieces by living Italian composers into its programming, also through new commissions. In 2003, the Orchestra recorded In pace, in canto, with soprano Alda Caiello, written by Fabio Vacchi for Ermanno Olmi’s film Cantando dietro i paraventi at the Auditorium of Milano. The song was released on the film’s soundtrack CD, distributed by Sony Music. Since then, the Orchestra UniMi constantly features in its programmes pieces by contemporary composers, both Italian and foreign, in most cases performed as Italian or world premieres.

The Orchestra UniMi’s non-extemporary interest in music written in our time is also evidenced by the national composition competition announced in 2003 and named after Angelo Paccagnini. The thirty scores received are evaluated by a commission consisting of Fabio Vacchi, Ivan Fedele, Oreste Bossini, Sergio Sablich; the first three classified pieces are performed by the Orchestra in the following three seasons.

Since the 2001/2002 season, the Orchestra has also dedicated itself to sacred music, with the Easter Concerts in Milan’s basilica of San Nazaro Maggiore. The concert on 11 April 2006, in which the Orchestra performed Le ultime sette parole del nostro Redentore sulla croce (The Last Seven Words of Our Redeemer on the Cross) by Franz Joseph Haydn, had the extraordinary presence, in the role of narrator, of the then Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi.

In 2004, the Orchestra staged Gioachino Rossini’s opera Il signor Bruschino in the Aula Magna of the University, in semi-staged form, conducted by Alessandro Crudele, who also directed it. Starring philosophy student Bruno Taddia in the role of Bruschino and a cast of young singers selected through dedicated auditions.

From 2004 to 2015, the Orchestra Unimi held its opening concerts at the Milan Auditorium (the only ensemble besides the Orchestra Sinfonica Giuseppe Verdi, resident there). Since 2013 it has performed the closing concert of its seasons at the Sala Verdi of the Milan Conservatory.

In 2005, the Orchestra also started to perform concerts outside its official seasons. On 22 January, conducted by Helmut Imig, they performed in the Ducal Chapel of Palazzo Farnese in Piacenza. Subsequently, they organised a tour in Germany, in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute in Cologne. The concerts, conducted by Alessandro Crudele, took place at Herten Castle (for the inauguration of the Hertner Schlosskonzerte, broadcast by the Westdeutscher Rundfunk), at the Ruhrfestspielhaus in Recklinghausen and in the auditorium of the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne. The tour was met with wide public and critical acclaim. On 11 May 2006, the Orchestra performed as part of Mozartways, on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth, in the Basilica of Sant’Antonio Abate in Milan. On 6 September 2014 the Orchestra, invited by John Axelrod who conducts it, performed at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, guest of the Festival CultureALL – La grande musica nei siti Unesco, with the world premiere performance of Love’s Geometries by Fabio Vacchi.

The growing quality of the Orchestra Unimi has been supported since the first seasons by the collaboration with internationally renowned conductors and soloists. Soloists include musicians from the Teatro alla Scala, the Orchestra Regionale Toscana and the Berliner Philharmoniker, among others.

Since the 2005/2006 season, the Orchestra has collaborated with the Milan Conservatory of Music. It hosts in its seasons some of the winners of the prizes awarded by the Conservatory to its best students (who perform as soloists with the Orchestra UniMi) and the winners of the Composition Prize (who are commissioned to write an unpublished orchestral composition, which is then included in the programme of the Orchestra’s next symphonic season).

Starting with the 2005/2006 season, the drafting of the programme notes is carried out in collaboration with the University’s Department of Cultural and Environmental Heritage, which entrusts them to young musicologists, undergraduates and recent graduates in Music and Performing Arts Sciences.

In 2007, the Orchestra participated in the first edition of the Festival Mito Settembre Musica; it was then regularly invited to subsequent editions.

From 2007 to 2013, the Orchestra invited four European university orchestras: the Akademisches Orchester Zürich and the Leipziger Universitätsorchester in the Auditorium in Milan, the Akademisches Orchester der Universität Würzburg in the Aula Magna and the Uppsala Royal Academic Orchestra in the Sala Verdi of the Conservatory. These invitations give the Orchestra the opportunity to play in two of Europe’s most prestigious concert halls: the Tonhalle in Zurich and the Gewandhaus in Leipzig.

In 2011, the Orchestra recorded the opening concert of the 2010/2011 season, with music by Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. The concert, released on DVD, is conducted by Alessandro Crudele and features Wenzel Fuchs, first clarinet of the Berliner Philharmoniker, as soloist.

In 2012, the Orchestra starts a partnership with the Italian Institute of Photography in Milan. Final year students of the Institute carry out an internship, documenting Orchestra rehearsals and concerts; the selected photographs are published on the Orchestra’s website and enrich its photographic portfolio. In the same year, the photobook Musica per gli occhi is produced.

The more than 600 young musicians who have collaborated with the Orchestra of the University of Milan over the years have gone on to enrich, to a considerable extent, the ensembles of other Milanese orchestras (Teatro alla Scala, Verdi Orchestra, Milano Classica), Italian (among others, the Orchestra Cherubini founded by Riccardo Muti, the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Orchestra del Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, the Orchestra Haydn) and international (the Orchestra of the Bayerische Staatsoper, the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra).

In 2021, the management of the University of Milan Orchestra and its cultural and concert activities was taken over by the Fondazione UNIMI.

As of the 2022/23 season, Sebastiano Rolli took over as Music Director of the Orchestra.