BT and Cisco’s TelePresence solution is music to the ears of Southbank Sinfonia...
The Southbank Sinfonia exists to support outstanding musicians at a critical point in their careers providing a stimulating and challenging environment to help these young musicians develop their talent. Every year a new orchestra of 32 music graduates, each supported by a bursary, is selected for a full-time programme of public performance and professional development.
However, recruiting such talent can be a problem. More than one hundred musicians from around the world audition for a place in the Sinfonia each year. The competition for places is so great that in 2008 one candidate flew from Boston to London just to attend the 15 minute audition.
“While that level of commitment is highly commendable, it’s not very green,” said Southbank Sinfonia founder and director of music, Simon Over. “Nor is it very inclusive, as not everyone can afford to fly to London, even for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
As enthusiastic sponsors of the Southbank Sinfonia, BT and Cisco suggested a solution that was music to the ears of the Sinfonia.
“It was one of those eureka moments,” said Aaron McCormack, chief executive of BT Conferencing. “The global network that underpins the BT Cisco TelePresence platform enables it to be operated between multiple points virtually anywhere on the planet.
“We saw that TelePresence would enable a musical audition to take place as if the parties were in the same room – even though they might be continents apart. That was absolutely ideal for the Southbank Sinfonia recruitment programme.”
Southbank Sinfonia worked with BT and Cisco to schedule a series of global auditions with the selection panel based in the BT Centre TelePresence suite near St Paul’s Cathedral.
Describing what it is like to audition someone using this world-class technology Simon said: “At three o’clock in the afternoon we were in Madrid and heard a trumpeter and violinist there. At five o’clock we were in Glasgow and heard more players there. At seven o’clock we shifted to New York; and then at nine o’clock to Auckland, New Zealand.”
Logistically the exercise was hassle-free and seamless, but what was Simon’s experience of the technology?
“We could observe very clearly how everyone was performing,” he said. “For example, looking at what their bowing hands were doing, and how they were moving around the instrument. Most importantly, in terms of sound quality, it really was as though they were sitting there with us.”
To choose the thirty-two players for its 2009 ensemble, Southbank Sinfonia heard more than 140 candidates during the course of one week, including the TelePresence-enabled global auditions.
Said Simon: “Using the TelePresence auditions, we recruited people from New Zealand, from Spain, and from Scotland. In the process we saved 20 tonnes of carbon, we didn’t fly 55,000 miles, and we saved thousands of pounds.”