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Orchestral manoeuvres in the light of Telepresence

November 12, 2008 | Chris Payatagool
BT_audicion.jpgFirst ever professional international orchestra auditions for Southbank Sinfonia take place over high quality audio, ultra high definition video technology from BT & Cisco

Southbank Sinfonia (SbS), Britain's best known orchestra of young professionals and the country's leading orchestral academy, is for the first time using a unique, immersive "in person" collaboration technology to hold UK regional and international auditions to join its ensemble.    

The most talented young players from Glasgow, Madrid, New York and Auckland will be able to audition to the SbS' judging panel without having to leave their home cities.

The technology, called Cisco TelePresence, will be supplied through a collaboration with BT and Cisco.

The quality of the wideband spatial audio and ultra high definition video experience is so true to life that there is no need for the young musicians to incur the cost of travelling, in some cases thousands of miles, to undertake a 15-minute audition.

Justin Lee, chief executive of Southbank Sinfonia, said: "This process represents a world first for the professional music scene and promises to change the way that orchestras recruit new players now and in the future.

"SbS prides itself on recruiting the very best of young musical talent from across the globe, regardless of background.  However, the reality of a traditional audition process, whereby judges and auditionees have to be in the same room, significantly limits the number of people who can apply.  SbS is constantly looking for ways to use new technology to remove these barriers."

As well as significantly reducing the travel costs incurred by in-person auditions, Cisco TelePresence technology creates a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly experience.

Simon Over, music director of Southbank Sinfonia, continued: "As an organisation revolving around, and driven by, young people, we must reflect their values and aspirations.  Cutting carbon emissions and becoming a more sustainable group is at the forefront of everything we do, as is a commitment to being as open and egalitarian as possible.  We are delighted to be able to use new technology in such a creative way to enhance the principles we all hold."     

The auditions for the 32 strong ensemble will take place over an entire week.  The judging panel consisting of Simon Over (co-founder and music director of Southbank Sinfonia), Katharine Verney (program director of Southbank Sinfonia) and David Carstairs, (Royal Opera House) will, between them, hear and interview over 140 would-be members of the orchestra.

The auditions over Cisco TelePresence will allow the furthest afield players to be considered.  Whilst the judging panel is based at BT Centre in central London, the musicians in Scotland, Spain, the USA and New Zealand will head to their nearest Cisco TelePresence suite.

Royston Hoggarth, CEO of BT Global Services UK, said: "We are delighted to be working with one of the best loved names in classical music on such an innovative project.  It's fascinating to see how technology such as Cisco TelePresence can be used to deliver its core benefits of cost savings, efficiency and sustainability outside of a traditional business environment.

"If it stands up to the test of a professional music audition and interview, the potential for TelePresence to replicate and replace in-person meetings in any situation is effectively unlimited."      

Phil Smith, Cisco vice president and chief executive for UK and Ireland, said: "We see organisations use Cisco TelePresence to speed decision-making, reduce travel and hire new employees, but this is a first highlighting the capabilities of the technology to deliver both the instrumental range and face-to-face experience for the interviews.  It's fantastic to see Southbank Sinfonia embrace this technology."  

Charlotte Dykes, viola player, said: "This is the first time I have auditioned to a panel of judges in a different room, let alone country.  However, such is the quality of the experience you soon forget the fact that they are actually hundreds of miles away.

"It has been a fantastic experience to be able to audition for Southbank Sinfonia without having to worry about the financial or indeed environmental costs associated with travelling."

[via BT Press Releases]






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