The Drake Symphony Orchestra is open by audition to any qualified University student. The orchestra performs on campus four times per year. Concerts feature a wide variety of repertoire and include artist faculty soloists, as well as winners of the annual Drake Concerto Competition. Recent performances have included Beethoven Symphonies No. 5, 6, and 7; Brahms Symphonies No. 1 and 2; Dvorak Symphonies No. 8 and 9 ("From the New World"); Franck Symphony in d; Mendelssohn Symphonies No. 4 and 5; Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 ("Organ Symphony"); Schumann Symphonies No. 1 and 4; Tchaikovsky Symphonies No. 2 and 5. The orchestra's concerts are regularly broadcasted on Iowa Public Radio.
Every other year, the orchestra performs a full-staged opera in conjunction with the Drake Opera Theater. Performances have included Mozart's Magic Flute, Donizetti's The Elixir of Love, and Haydn's La Cantarina. Additionally, the orchestra has been invited to perform with the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra in a special anniversary celebration of the DMSO.
The Drake Concerto Competition is open to any Drake student who studies with Drake applied faculty. Winners of the competition perform a concerto, shorter piece written for orchestra and solo instrument, or opera arias with the Drake Symphony Orchestra at the spring concert.