Maria José Laginha was born in Lisbon. She studied at the Fundação Musical dos Amigos das Crianças and the Escola Profissional Artística do Vale do Ave (Artave) with Filomena Cardoso, Leonor Prado, Alberto Gaio Lima and Suzanne Lidegran. With a scholarship from Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, she completed her studies with Aníbal Lima at the Academia Nacional Superior de Orquestra. She won the Prémio Jovens Músicos in 2005. She has attended masterclasses by Christoph Schikedanz (Kissingen Sommer), Roman Nodel, Igor Oistrakh, Igor Volochine, Chistophe Poiget (Rencontres Musicales en Lorraine), Boris Kuniev, Daniel Rowland (Stift International Music Festival), Richard Gwilt (Baroque violin), Alexei Mijlin and Felix Andrievsky.
During her formative years, she joined several youth orchestras, such as the European Union Youth Orchestra and the World Orchestra, and toured worldwide. She also played with the Orquestra Aproarte, Sinfonietta de Lisboa, Lisbon Chamber Orchestra, Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa and Orquestra de Câmara Portuguesa and played solo with the Orquestra Artave, the Filarmonia da Beiras and the Gulbenkian Orchestra. She has been a member of the Camerata Atlântica since its creation in 2013. She was a teacher with the Orquestra Geração. She has been a member of the Gulbenkian Orchestra since 2007.