Akademiska Orkestern continues the old European tradition of university orchestras, having roots going back as far as the 17th century.

The Royal Academy in Turku was founded by the Count Per Brahe in 1640, during the reign of Queen Kristiina, as the third university in the Swedish kingdom. From the beginning academic festivities were celebrated with music by the students. In 1747 the first orchestra, Akademiska Kapellet, was founded in Finland to support these activities. In 1828 the University was moved to Helsinki, where the musical life continued under the direction of Fredrik Pacius and others. In the years 1868-1926 the orchestra was using the name Academic Orchestra. At the time the orchestra was directed by Jean Sibelius and Robert Kajanus among others.

In 1928 the orchestra, now directed by Alfred Anderssén, returned to its origins to the old capital Turku, in conjunction with the 10 years earlier re-established Åbo Akademi University. Akademiska Orkestern was founded to promote musical life among students of the University. Until 1955 the orchestra was directed by the University’s long-time professor in music, John Rosas, and after him, until 1990, by honorary doctor in humanistic sciences, Gottfrid Gräsbeck. Gottfrid Gräsbeck was presented with honorary membership by the orchestra in the spring of 1992. For one semester the orchestra was directed by the Syrian-born violoncellist Munir Bakieh. During 1956-1995 the concertmaster of the orchestra was head-physician Christer Sourander, best known of the orchestra’s long-term members. He was also honorary member and honorary concertmaster of the orchestra.