The Columbia Symphony Orchestra was an orchestra formed by Columbia Records strictly for the purpose of making recordings. It provided a vehicle for some of Columbia's better known conductors and recording artists to record using only company resources. The musicians in the orchestra were contracted as needed for individual sessions and consisted of free-lance artists and members of either the New York Philharmonic or the Los Angeles Philharmonic, depending on whether the recording was being made in Columbia's East Coast or West Coast studios.
The term Columbia Symphony Orchestra was also used when, for contractual reasons, another orchestra could not appear under its own name. Many Los Angeles Philharmonic musicians also played under the Columbia Symphony name, and some reports mention that the entire Philharmonic frequently played as the Columbia Symphony when recorded on the west coast.