What is the YouTube Symphony Orchestra?

The YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011 (youtube.com/symphony) is a global online audition for a collaborative orchestra to meet and perform at Sydney Opera House in March, 2011, under the direction of conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.  In October, 2010, musicians around the world were invited to audition for the opportunity to participate in a week-long summit of rehearsals and performances at the iconic Sydney Opera House. In January, YouTube announced the 97 members and 4 soloists from more than 30 countries who will make up the Orchestra. The YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011 follows the success of the original YouTube Symphony Orchestra that brought musicians to New York’s Carnegie Hall in April, 2009.  

What will be in the March 20 performance?

The YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011 repertoire includes Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Stravinsky’s spectacular Firebird, and Mothership, a specially-commissioned piece by American composer Mason Bates, featuring four winning musicians who submitted improvisations on YouTube (a Brazilian guitarist, a Chinese guzheng player, a Venezuelan violinist, and an Australian bassist). Soloists and special guests featured with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011 include the Sydney Children’s Choir, didgeridoo star William Barton, violinists Stefan Jackiw, Colin Jacobsen and Richard Tognetti, organ sensation Cameron Carpenter, and the 17-year-old Venezuelan conductor Ilyich Rivas.

What’s the goal?

The YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011 uses YouTube’s global platform to give musicians access to leaders of the classical music world, and to Sydney Opera House, whatever their background. Building on the YouTube Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, the week-long summit in Sydney will inspire further creativity and musical innovation by combining new technologies with a centuries-old musical tradition, and elevate classical music through the diverse community of YouTube.

What was the original YouTube Symphony Orchestra?

In April 2009, YouTube brought more than 90 musicians from 30 countries to Carnegie Hall to form the world’s first collaborative online orchestra. The sell-out performance under the direction of San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas was the culmination of an online audition that garnered submissions from over 70 countries on six continents.  

Why Sydney Opera House?

Sydney Opera House is an iconic location, a world heritage building, and a global symbol of the arts. By taking the YouTube Symphony Orchestra from New York’s Carnegie Hall across the globe to Sydney we are broadening the horizons of this project, one which already breaks down geographic borders by opening up the audition process online.

How did the audition process work?

There were two categories: a classical audition; and a solo improvisation. For the classical audition musicians submitted a video performance from the pieces listed on youtube.com/symphony according to instrument. New for the YTSO2011 was a search for solo improvisers, regardless of instrument.  For the solo improvisation, musicians performed an original improvisation over the new composition, “Mothership,” by Mason Bates. 

How did the selection process work?

An international expert judging panel consisting of representatives from the London Symphony Orchestra, and other musical experts selected a number of entries to be voted on by the YouTube community. The YouTube community then voted for its favourites. The final decision of who participates in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011 rests with the creative director, Michael Tilson Thomas.

What is the improvisational piece “Mothership”? 

Mothership is a new, innovative composition by Mason Bates that the YouTube community is invited to add their take to, and ultimately help perform.  Musicians and artists around the world were invited to demonstrate their musical creativity by using Bates’ orchestral track to create and submit a solo improvisation, without restriction on instrument or musical genre.  

Where/when can I watch the final performance?

The final performance on March 20, 2011 (8pm local time), will be streamed live on youtube.com/symphony. Tickets for the performance at Sydney Opera House will be available to the public at SydneyOperaHouse.com.

What are the "master class" videos?

The London Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and other leading orchestras  created a series of instructional “master class” videos to help musicians interested in participating in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra prepare for their auditions. These videos will continue to live on youtube.com/symphony for anyone who wants to learn.