"I wanted to combine my passion for video-game music and orchestras," says Eng, who has graduated, lives in Montgomery County and works as a patient-account coordinator at a physical therapy clinic. "I wanted to create a more active role rather than just sitting in the audience."
Looking at the example of Leung, she says she thought: "What if I could do what he did and make it to an orchestra where I could participate?"
Thus the orchestra was born. It boasts of being the first collegiate ensemble devoted to applying orchestral arrangements to video-game music. Other colleges, however, are taking note. Ryan says he's heard of similar groups being organized at Ithaca College and the University of Delaware. For his part, Guttman counts himself a true pioneer in the genre; while an 11th-grader at Montgomery County's Magruder High School, he co-founded a gamer orchestra there.
Richardson, who agreed to serve as the orchestra's adviser when one of his graduate students asked him — "All right," he remembers saying, "that sounds cool" — maintains the idea of an orchestra devoted to video-game music makes perfect sense. Anyone who thinks gamer music is basically the sound of a dying Pac Man — well, they're clearly behind the times.
"I was born in 1968, I got my first computer at age 10, and I sort of grew up with video games," he says. "Maybe the generation that grew up before is not as familiar with the art form. It's not just blips and bleeps — it's full orchestral sounds.
In fact, Richardson suggests, something like the GSO makes for a perfect generational meeting ground. "The fact that it's video games appeals to the younger generation," he says, "while the fact that it's orchestral music appeals to all generations."
If you go
The University of Maryland's Gamer Symphony Orchestra performs at 2 p.m. Saturday at Dekelboum Concert Hall, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Stadium Drive, College Park. Free. umd.gamersymphony.org