YouTube Symphony Orchestra Debuts


Stokowski would have loved it. In his vague accent, he would have lauded it as classical music embracing new technology, a promising new future for an old artform. And to the extent that it brought attention to classical music, last night’s debut in Carnegie Hall of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra must be considered a good thing.

But brush aside the hype and the youth, the American Idol-ish cloaking, and what you find is a festival orchestra not unlike most others. They auditioned. They assembled. They played a concert. Then went home.

Will the fact that these players sent in their auditions via YouTube really change the way auditions are done at orchestras?

The convention for the audition process at most orchestras has for years allowed for tapes to be sent in for preliminary rounds. And since anonymity is important in the screening stage, it seems silly to go to trouble to include video. It is extremely unlikely that any orchestra would hire a player hearing talent solely as filtered through a YouTube segment. Sound quality is an important factor, and everyone involved (audition committee and prospective new members alike) would have reason to be concerned about the faithfulness of sound produced electronically.

In classical music - still - it's all about being there.

But wouldn't it be great to see YouTube make this festival an annual event and attach to it a firmer sense of mission? Perhaps a scholarship component. Or creating a touring chamber music program that would visit schools and do master classes after the big concert is over. There's no reason why YouTube Symphony can't become a contemporary version of Young Audiences, which for many school children was a first, important taste of classical music.

Other views. What was the point? asks the Washington Post. "Subtlety? Well, that takes more rehearsal time," says the New York Times.