The Houston Balalaika Society was formed in 1976 by Charley Rappaport and Steve Wolownik. The Society's orchestra performed for the first time at the Bellaire Arts Festival in Bellaire, Texas in 1977. Later that year, Rappaport and Wolownik moved to Atlanta and in 1978 they established the Balalaika and Domra Association of America. Following Rappaport and Wolownik's departure from Houston, Paul Phillips became the ensemble's director. Phillips was a self-taught musician, working for NASA as both a microbiologist and neuropsychopharmacologist. Sometime in the 1980s or 1990s, he solicited the noted mandolinist and composer Emanuil Sheynkman to compose a series of compositions for the Houston Balalaika Orchestra. Phillips would remain president of the society and director of the orchestra until his death in 2010. Following this, the ensemble was led by a series of directors that included Michael Skupin, Richard Pickar, Lech Borowicz, Pamela Bingham, John Helton, Sergey Vashchenko, and Vassily Rodionov.