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Western News | January 20, 2011

christine carter

YouTube is changing the way international orchestras audition musicians.

With more than 4,400 views (and counting) on YouTube, University of Western Ontario alumna Christine Carter (BMus’05) earned a spot as a member of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011.

The YouTube Symphony Orchestra is a unique concept allowing musicians – from amateur to professional – to try out for a spot in an international orchestra as selected by the online video community.

Carter put her musical talents on display and left herself open not only to criticism from renowned musicians, but also the critical ears of the public.

“It takes a certain amount of guts to stick yourself up on YouTube and have the whole world see your audition,” says the classically trained bass clarinetist, who is currently completing her doctor of musical arts at the Manhattan School of Music. “I thought it was a long shot.”

After uploading an audition video, Carter was shortlisted among more than 300 finalists representing 46 countries, selected by a panel of judges from nine leading international orchestras.

But, it was up to the public to determine who would fill the orchestra seats and perform at the Sydney Opera House in March. During a week in December, viewers could vote for their favourite musician to win a spot for each position in the orchestra. As the group’s conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas of the San Francisco Symphony had the ability to override the decision.

Traditionally, blind auditions are held, but YouTube has turned this process on its head. “It is controversial,” Carter says. “The idea behind the blind audition is to take away stereotypes and bias. … Classical musicians have gotten used to this blind, supposedly objective audition process.

“What I love about the YouTube system, for this orchestra in particular, is it gets the whole world really excited about classical music,” she explains.

The orchestra will include 97 amateur and professional musicians from more than 30 countries, ranging in age from 14 to 49 years old. As well, four soloists will perform an improvisation to a piece composed specifically for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra by American composer Mason Bates.

“I knew it would be an amazing musical experience because of the level they were going after with this conductor and that venue, the Sydney Opera House,” Carter says. “Playing with all these people from all over the world, it is a win-win scenario.

“When you come together and play music, it doesn’t matter where you are from. Everyone brings these amazing backgrounds. It adds a lot of colour to the music.”

The first YouTube Symphony Orchestra event, featuring more than 90 musicians, was held in 2009 in New York’s Carnegie Hall.

In March, Carter will join her peers in Sydney to participate in a week-long classical music summit, which culminates with a performance on March 20. The performance will be live-streamed on YouTube and videos showcasing the musicians and the process will be uploaded to the dedicated YouTube Symphony Orchestra channel.

“It is such a good visibility project for classical music,” she says. “With this, there is an investment with the audience. As soon as they invest, they are far more excited in the process and I think that is extremely valuable for the future of music.”

This is an exciting year for Carter. In addition to the Sydney performance, she will also be playing in Carnegie Hall and the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, China.

Read the complete story: Western News

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