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Two Jacobs students played in first-ever YouTube Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall

Indiana University Jacobs School of Music flutist Daniel Stein and viola performance major Dash Nesbitt were recently part of history in the making: both took the Carnegie Hall stage April 15 as part of the first-ever "YouTube Symphony Orchestra."

The concert, which included a mix of popular pieces from both the classical repertoire and recently composed and improvised works, can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/symphony.

The final ensemble was composed of 96 musicians from 30 countries, all of whom auditioned for their spots through the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube. The contest was open to anyone, of any age, from anywhere in the world.

Applicants were initially asked to download their own part of a short piece written by composer Tan Dun, recognized for his work in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Each entrant recorded his or her own part while watching a silent video of Dun conducting; the second component involved playing a few pieces from the standard repertoire.

Nesbitt, Dash
Dash Nesbitt

A panel of musicians from professional orchestras around the world narrowed down the list of more than 3,000 applicants to 200 finalists. YouTube users then chose their favorites, and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas selected the final 96 musicians based on his judgment and the number of votes for each finalist.

As Tilson Thomas addressed the Carnegie Hall crowd April 15, he talked about how much classical music tells us about who we have been as people.

"We don't have to define it anymore, we can experience it," he said. "I wanted to demonstrate the incredible passion that people from all around the world have for classical music -- how much it speaks to them, wherever they may be coming from."

Tilson Thomas said, "The musicians you're going to meet tonight are all perfect examples of that passion. It's been so incredible to work with them and their immense understanding and involvement. They've answered the question, 'How do you get to Carnegie Hall?' with a brand-new response, which is, 'upload, upload, upload!'"

About Dash Nesbitt

Nesbitt is a junior from Jenks, Okla., who is currently studying viola with Professor Atar Arad at the Jacobs School.

"I am proud of Dash and of his selection for this event," said Arad. "In a few years, Dash will have to compete for an orchestra position -- in his case, I hope it's a major orchestra -- and what I would like him to learn from the YouTube experience is that he can indeed measure up! The rest is good fun, and I'm glad he had it."

Nesbitt was accepted to the orchestra last-minute and had only a week to prepare before he was flown to New York City. Although Nesbitt has now had the privilege of playing at Carnegie Hall three times, he says playing in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra was the most unique of the performances.

He particularly enjoyed being able to work with musicians from many different cultures and ages.

"In four short days, we formed a friendship that will last for years," Nesbitt said. "We were all so diverse, but we shared this love of music, and that was all that mattered. Working with Maestro Michael Tilson Thomas really brought us together -- he united us in a way that made it a truly joyous experience for everyone."

After completing his degree at the Jacobs School of Music, Nesbitt plans to pursue graduate studies in New York City.

Stein, Daniel
Daniel Stein

About Daniel Stein

Stein graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with degrees in computer science and electrical engineering. He has played the flute since he was 8 and says he always knew music would be a major part of his life. While he was an undergraduate student, Stein played in the MIT symphony and studied flute privately in Boston.

During his senior year at MIT, Stein decided to pursue his dream of a career in music; after graduation, he studied the flute on a Fulbright Fellowship in Geneva, Switzerland, with the former principal flutist of the Boston Symphony. He chose the IU Jacobs School of Music in part to continue working with Professor Thomas Robertello, whom he had previously met at a music festival.

"Daniel Stein is among the most gifted flutists to have studied at IU," said Robertello. "He is on the cusp of having a major career, having been a finalist for several major orchestral positions, including the L.A. Philharmonic. I predict he will soon win a prominent position with a prestigious orchestra. The YouTube Symphony project was an enormously positive experience for him -- to play principal flute in Carnegie Hall is obviously the dream of many flutists, and Daniel's artistry deserves every opportunity to be recognized."

While the audition process was difficult, Stein said his MIT background gave him added insight and motivation.

"Not only was I interested to meet musicians from all over the world -- and, of course, perform at Carnegie Hall -- but I was also interested from a technological point of view," Stein said. "The Internet will likely continue to grow as a great tool to connect classical musicians with each other and the greater public."

At just 26, Stein has completed his master's degree and has begun a doctoral program in music. He is pursuing music performance as a career and has been auditioning for orchestras around the country, a process he describes as extremely difficult. Although he chose this route, Stein says he can see himself incorporating aspects of engineering into his profession.

His Jacobs training will pave the way. "My flute lessons and the faculty concerts I attend give me the inspiration I need to make progress and develop as an artist."