It turns out all you need to play in the storied Sydney Opera House is a YouTube account and talent. The YouTube Symphony Orchestra (YSO) recently announced their list of musicians who won a spot in the orchestra. All they had to do was post a video of themselves playing a classical piece, get user votes and be great at their chosen instrument.
The YouTube Symphony Orchestra is a crowdsourced classical orchestra enjoying its second year. Last year an entire orchestra was selected from audition videos posted to YouTube by professional players and skilled hobbyists. The musicians then met for the first time in New York, rehearsed, and performed at Carnegie Hall.
David Cooper, who plays French horn in the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, has been selected to be part of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra in March in Sydney, Australia.
Cooper joined the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra as co-associate principal horn in 2008. He was acting principal horn in the Victoria Symphony from 2006 to 2008 and has been a featured soloist with the Victoria Symphony, Detroit Civic Orchestra and Grand Rapids Youth Symphony. He has also performed numerous solo and chamber recitals in the Pacific Northwest, competed in the prestigious Prague Spring International Horn competition, and placed in the semi-finals in the Markneukirchen International Solo Competition. He has also been selected to participate in the upcoming Marlboro Music Festival.
He was born in Lansing, Michigan, in 1984 into a very musical family. Both his uncle and grandmother played horn in the Lansing Symphony. Cooper began studying the instrument at age 11, and his grandmother gave him her horn and his first lessons. He has studied at the Curtis Institute of Music and MichiganStateUniversity. In 2003 he was a fellow at the TanglewoodMusicCenter.
Cooper took a hiatus from music in 2005 to become an Ameri-Corps intern with the Jefferson Land Trust in Port Townsend, Washington. There he coordinated volunteers and was in charge of monitoring conservation easements.
His first album, recorded with Cary Chow in Victoria, British Columbia, will soon be independently released.
This year, applicants came from all over the world mixed both quirk and actual talent, such as a German trombone player, Ramon, buzzing out “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on a vuvuzela while wearing a tuxedo in the snow. Other anomalies include a guzheng player from Beijing or an electric guitarist from Brazil. While the orchestra is primarily made out traditional instruments like violins, horns, and percussion, it’s a testament that anyone can get involved. “Usually [an audition] is done behind a curtain. With our partners, we wanted to challenge that,” said Ed Sanders, YouTube’s Group Marketing Manager. “If you have the skill and a webcam, you should be able to give it a crack.”
While the orchestra will be performing in a traditional venue and conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, the widely-respected music director of the San Francisco Symphony, the goal of the YSO is to open up classical music to a new, curious community. Its website has played a huge role in both drawing together a global network of professional musicians and also introducing orchestral music to younger or casual listeners.
The site, hosted on YouTube, provides online master classes, improvisations, musician profiles and human interest stories designed to intrigue amateurs and professionals. “The classical music community globally was very large but very fragmented and something that we wanted to do, as sort of an experiment, was to create a hub where people could sort of connect around a common passion,” said Sanders.
The master classes are definitely geared towards prospective players, but they offer enough historical tidbits and musical insights that they’re fun to watch even if you can’t play along. The improvisations are more clearly meant to be enjoyed as musical flights of fancy featuring bizarre or unexpected instruments — like a vocoder cello — riffing on an original piece by Mason Bates. More videos will be added as the final performance date, March 20th, draws near.
For the truly uninitiated, “Experiment” allows anyone to start playing music, provided they have a webcam. The user can wave a photo or printout of the supplied QR code in front of their webcam to play different notes. You can choose from three different types of “instruments” and slide the tempo to suit their playing styles.
Mauricio Cespedes is principle violist for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and one of the musicians selected to be part of the YSO. Last year he watched the different master classes and the final performance at Carnegie Hall. Inspired by what he saw, he auditioned for the YSO this year: “I think the YouTube Symphony Orchestra is designed to bring, first of all, talented players from around the world together that represents a new generation that is connected online, that is connected through YouTube, through these powerful tools.”
For more information about Cooper and the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, visit http://www.youtube.com/symphony and click “meet the winners.”