"How do you get to Carnegie Hall?'' asked Michael Tilson Thomas at last year’s sold-out debut concert by the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. It's an old joke, but the conductor had a modern answer: "Upload, upload, upload.''
A growing number of organizations are taking this to heart and putting their own spin on Internet crowd-sourcing.
From the Top, the weekly public radio show highlighting young classical musicians, together with Carnegie Hall, said on Wednesday that they are partnering on a new online contest called "Big Break." The premise is simple: musicians ages 8 through 18 are invited to submit a video of a solo classical performance at YouTube.com/BigBreak. These will be reviewed by a panel of judges from both organizations, who will select a group of finalists to move on to a public voting stage, beginning in late November.
The public can weigh in from Nov. 29 through Dec. 14 and the winner will appear on an upcoming installment of From the Top, and will also have an opportunity to appear in a Carnegie Hall Family Concert in Zankel Hall in spring 2011.
Hosted by the pianist Christopher O'Riley, From the Top is one of the most popular classical music programs on the airwaves. It is broadcast on nearly 250 stations (including WQXR) and reaches an audience of more than 700,000 listeners nationwide. Each hour-long program showcases five or six talented pre-collegiate classical musicians as they tell their stories and perform alongside O'Riley.
A Fledgling Orchestra Festival
Meanwhile, new details were released Wednesday about Spring for Music, a long-planned festival of North American orchestras that will come to Carnegie Hall from May 6 through 11. The festival, which is scheduled to be an annual event, combines adventurous repertory with affordably priced tickets, at $25 a seat (full disclosure: WQXR is a media partner).
The organization is also hosting an online contest in which the public is invited to create a "fantasy" concert program that will be voted on by the online community. Users weigh in and the winner will be interviewed on PRI’s Performance Today program sometime during the May 2011 festival. In addition, the public will be able to comment on programs submitted by orchestras competing for the 2013 festival until Nov. 19. The programs will not be tied to the orchestras involved.
Seven North American orchestras will participate in the 2011 festival, including Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Toledo Symphony, Albany Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. Tickets for the 2011 festival will go on sale Thursday, February 17, 2011, although one can now join a “virtual line” on the organization’s web site, Springformusic.com.