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From Online to Down Under

Cellist, violist to perform in Australia with YouTube Symphony Orchestra

March 9, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold
Danny Lai and Julia Yang were selected through YouTube auditions to join 99 other orchestra members in a week of rehearsals, master classes and community concerts in Sydney, Australia.
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University music students Julia Yang and Danny Lai are headed Down Under to perform with the 2011 YouTube Symphony Orchestra. No less than Grammy Award-winning San Francisco Orchestra director Michael Tilson Thomas will conduct the unusual orchestra in a March 20 concert in Sydney.

The YouTube Symphony Orchestra selects its members from audition tapes posted on YouTube by aspiring musicians worldwide. The idea behind the symphony now in its second year is to open up classical music to a new audience.

Yang and Lai will join 99 other orchestra members in a week of rehearsals, master classes and community concerts in Sydney. The entire trip -- paid for by YouTube -- will culminate March 20 with the YouTube concert directed by Thomas in Australia’s storied Sydney Opera House. Needless to say, it will be streamed live on the Web.

Yang, a student of the cello at the Bienen School of Music, and Lai, a student of the viola there and of economics at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, are among 101 musicians from 33 countries who were selected for the orchestra in the Google-sponsored competition.

After viewing thousands of online auditions, expert judges -- including members of the London Symphony Orchestra -- selected 336 finalists. Online voting by the YouTube community as well as considerations by conductor Thomas determined the orchestra’s ultimate selections.

Northwestern juniors Yang and Lai are good friends. Yang, who studies with Hans Jorgen Jensen in the Bienen School, began playing the cello at age 6. Lai, whose musical tastes run from Mos Def, Coldplay and Radiohead to Bartok, Brahms and Debussy, took up the viola at 10. He studies the viola with Roland Vamos.

Also selected to play in the YouTube orchestra is Bienen School alumnus and clarinetist Michael Rezzo. Other Bienen students and recent alumni were finalists in the online competition. They are undergraduates Jesse Bowman and Michael Harper and alumni Jean Laurenz, Jack Marquardt, Louis Olenick and Meryl Summers.

In Sydney, the YouTube Symphony Orchestra will perform Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” and “Mothership,” a commissioned work by composer Mason Bates. The 2010 YouTube Symphony Orchestra performed last year at the Barbican Centre, home of the London Symphony Orchestra.

And all it took was a YouTube account and a lot of hard work and talent.
Topics: Campus Life