Tag Archives: Music

The YouTube Symphony Orchestra as a Virtual Team – an insider’s view

I confess to owning two blogs.  One is my work blog, and the other, this, a more whimsical personal blog.   As sometimes happen, there is a blog item that falls between two stools.  Here I blog about virtual teams (and of course, Nasrudin), and there I blog about sales channels – sometimes known as routes to market – how products and services reach end customers.  What is the connection between virtual teams and sales channels?   A channel ecosystem is a large virtual team, with a vendor at the heart of it, trying to motivate, cajole, coral, train and support third party companies to do their bidding and add value.  Plus I have this YouTube Symphony thing whirling in the background.  So this time, a blog on virtual teams, sales channels and the YouTube Symphony as an example of a large virtual team went to my work blog.


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Filed under Blogs and Blogging, Social Networking, Virtual Teams

Changing roles

Sometimes taking a team member outside the role in which they are most comfortable falls flat on its face.

The German French horn player, Bruno Jaenicke (1887-1946), was, for many years, the principal hornist of the New York Philharmonic and a truly great one. He can be heard on many of Toscanini’s recordings. He rarely missed a note and was held in very high regard by the profession. In November 1931, at a concert with the guest conductor, Erich Kleiber, Jaenicke was booked to play Strauss’ first horn concerto.  Standing in front of the orchestra, he was completely unnerved, fumbled, missed notes and sounded like an amateur. After the first two movements, he walked off stage and didn’t return. It was announced to the audience that Jaenicke was unwell and that the piece would be dropped from the programme. Backstage, Jaenicke was seen smashing his horn by jumping on it and later reportedly got blindingly drunk. It was at least a week before Jaenicke reappeared. He returned to the section with no explanations and resumed his career as America’s finest horn player.

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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