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Classically Trained: From YouTube fame to a Sydney show

February 12, 2011|By Bradley Zint
  • Andrew Chilcote, pictured here in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, is a 22-year-old double bass player from Irvine who won a spot in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. He will play with the group in March in Sydney, Australia.
Andrew Chilcote, pictured here in St. Peter's Basilica… (Hand In, Daily Pilot )

With the modern-day Internet, one can turn to Google for just about everything: Web searches, maps, news, e-mail or lucrative advertising, to name a few.

But who knew Google was making orchestras, too?

Turns out one young musician from Irvine did — and it's getting him a free trip to Sydney, Australia.

Andrew Chilcote is a 22-year-old double bass player finishing up his senior year at the New England Conservatory in Boston, one of the nation's top music schools. He was among the many musicians wanting to play in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, a worldwide affair that had folks from all over uploading videos onto YouTube — the popular Google-owned video-sharing website — of themselves playing their respective instruments.

Those videos were their audition. A panel of experts from nine orchestras whittled down the applicants to 336 finalists from 46 countries. Chilcote was one of them.

Then the Internet world voted. Those votes were tallied and "taken into consideration" before the finalists became the chosen ones.

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Turns out everybody thought Chilcote and his bass had the right stuff.

He'll soon be bowing in the eight-person bass section within the 97-member YouTube Symphony Orchestra that's under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor of the San Francisco Symphony. The concert is March 20 at the Sydney Opera House and will be available online for live streaming.

This is the orchestra's second appearance. Its first was in 2009 when the much-hyped group, conceived under the same format of chosen musicians who submitted online videos, performed in New York City's Carnegie Hall.

I got a chance to speak with Chilcote over the phone. I called in from the warm coast to the cold one and asked if he felt stunned that he made the group. He said he was.

"I was actually surprised," he admitted. "Initially I entered it thinking I'd be happy if I got past the first round."

I wasn't surprised, considering the impressive musicality that emanates from his audition video shot last November in the conservatory's Keller Room, a 100-seat recital hall.

The video has about 4,300 views and includes some Bach, some Beethoven and a "nice job" comment.

At his school, dubbed NEC, Chilcote keeps busy playing in various ensembles and even in ones for other schools nearby, like Harvard, MIT and Tufts.

"All the other colleges need bass players because there is a shortage," he said.

Such opportunities are why he chose NEC over USC, where he was also accepted.

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