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Streaming music hits the right note

Streaming music hits the right note

Video conferencing has opened the door to new audiences and is helping to train up a fresh generation of musicians, finds Hamish Barwick

Australian Youth Orchestra CEO Colin Cornish.

Australian Youth Orchestra CEO Colin Cornish.

Video conferencing and streaming have often been positioned as a way of helping organisations reduce travel costs. But for the Australian Youth Orchestra (AYO), the technology is also providing an opportunity to bring a fresh generation of players and listeners into its fold.

The AYO rolled out a video conferencing trial in 2013 as a way of auditioning more students nationally while minimising travel costs, its CEO, Colin Cornish, told CIO Australia.

The organisation relies on fundraising and grants from the Federal Government.

Students wanting to audition for the AYO turn up to their local school hall, where a technician is on-hand with video equipment. The student then plays their audition live on camera to a judging panel based in Sydney or Melbourne.

“Video conferencing allows us to conduct more auditions than we currently do, and recording the auditions allows the judges to have easy reference point,” Cornish said.

Video’s wider potential was quickly realised and the AYO has worked with its sponsor, Accenture Digital, to roll out live streaming of concerts for geographically isolated areas of Australia. This gave supporters in these areas the chance to see more performances.

During 2014, the organisation streamed three concerts, increasing its audience by up to 3,000 viewers since trials began.

“That has increased the awareness of the orchestra but also given us the opportunity to have video on demand,” said Cornish. “It’s useful to have concerts that we can point people to via the website. “A lot of AYO students use the videos to look at their own performance. They can also talk to their teacher about it and get feedback.”

In addition, the video conferencing project has helped deliver specialist training to isolated music students, and increased young musicians’ participation in quality ensembles and workshops.

For example, the AYO might be in Townsville doing a workshop with a didgeridoo player and a local high school orchestra. A school in Armidale could also be part of that activity by watching it online and taking part in a question and answer session.

“We have done online master classes where a leading performer or teacher will give a class to a group of 20 AYO musicians. This gives our students access to expertise that otherwise they would need to travel overseas or interstate for,” he said.

The AYO has even filmed rehearsals of its orchestra to give high school or primary school students around Australia a chance to go `behind the scenes.’

“The rehearsal is produced in such a way that the person leading it is talking to the camera and there are enough cameras to get close-ups on different instruments,” Cornish explained.

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Online sharing of workshops and rehearsals allows the AYO to offer music programs to students in schools that don’t have a music teacher or curriculum. Cornish hopes this will spark more young people to pick up a musical instrument.

“If you have access to a concert, your interest in it and potential to take up an instrument has increased from zero to at least two,” Cornish claimed.

For schools with a music teacher, the AYO plans to provide online resources that will allow the teacher to expand their music program.

Cornish said the help from Accenture Digital was vital, as the AYO does not have internal IT staff. As well as integrating the video conferencing tools, Accenture provided its live events solution to deliver reliable video streaming to mobile devices.

“We are now looking at an upgrade of our website and database to handle capacity because our audience and supporter base is growing,” Cornish said.

AYO is looking at rolling out the capacity increase in 2015.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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