Virtual Teams in Music

Music is not often thought of as a field where one sees virtual teaming yet there are plenty of great examples. Studio musicians are very familiar with working in a virtual team. They often lay down tracks without the co-presence of other musicians.  Between 1985 and 1987, I had the privilege to be part of a live virtual music team.  When Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical CATS was first staged, the design of the set in that theatre made it impossible to accommodate a pit orchestra in front and below the stage, so the musicians were housed offstage.  The conductor and the stage were kept in touch via video links. That had an added benefit. Those mixing the music could play with the balance of the sound because the band was piped into the auditorium.   When the show was mounted in Toronto, the band of seventeen was housed in a separate studio.  I was moonlighting at night there as a musician and played around 550 CATS shows.   You might ask why not just record the band and play that? In a live performance many things can and do vary, so it would be too easy for the musicians, dancers and singers to get out of synch.

Earlier this month, in partnership with the London Symphony Orchestra and YouTube, the “YouTube Symphony Orchestra” was announced.  By submitting YouTube videos, players audition for a chance to play in a live performance at Carnegie Hall on April 15th, 2009.   It bills itself as the “world’s first collaborative orchestra” which is a stretch since all musical groups are collaborative, but it is the first time that the internet has been used as the exclusive audition medium.  Prospects must submit two YouTube videos by January 28th, 2009, one being their part in a newly commissioned piece by Tan Dun, who composed the music for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Musicians get the benefit of watching the piece played on YouTube by the London Symphony Orchestra as well as master classes by that orchestra’s principal players.  Audition hopefuls play along with a silent YouTube video of the composer conducting his piece.  In addition, they must submit a couple of standard, out of copyright audition pieces.   In February, entrants are screened by a marketing agency, and top scoring entries are submitted to a panel of musicians.  They are hoping to whittle that down to 200 finalists who will be submitted to the YouTube audience for public voting between February 14th and February 22nd 2009. Some entrants may find themselves as soloists in the Live Event.  Final say of who will be invited to play will rest with the live event’s conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas.   Those participating get their travel costs paid for.

This is an exciting use of this medium to reach out to music hopefuls, and I am eagerly looking forward to how this turns out.  Could the same process be used to screen candidates in other fields?


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Filed under Coordination, Social Networking, Virtual Teams

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