The present group was founded in 1980 by Tom Moran. It later merged with the Seattle Mandolin Society, founded in 1968 by Jim Feroe, who recounts some of the group’s history in this 1991 article published by CMSA. There were also earlier mandolin orchestras in Seattle, during the golden age of the mandolin (1880–1925). One of these groups was led by composer, arranger, and soloist Carleton Ostrander.
The Seattle Mandolin Orchestra has hosted and presented to Northwest audiences many of the finest mandolin soloists and ensembles, including Carlo Aonzo and Elena Buttiero, Mike Marshall, Josh Pinkham, Evan Marshall, Duo LaRe (Chris Acquavella and Nate Jarrell), Joe Craven, Duo Capriccioso (Gertrud and Michael Troester), Richard Walz and Mari Tomizuka, Andre St. Clivier, Joan Martin Woodward, the Helsinki Mandoliners from Finland, and the Bavarian and Hessian state mandolin orchestras from Germany. In 2010 they hosted the 24th annual convention of the Classical Mandolin Society of America (CMSA).