Orchestra branches out

With four residential college orchestras, the Yale Symphony Orchestra and the School of Music’s Philharmonia, it might seem that Yale already has a glut of instrumental ensembles. But Gregory Robbins MUS ’12 sees room for one more.

The Delphi Chamber Orchestra, which Robbins founded last spring, started out as a way to play music not suited to larger orchestras like the Philharmonia. The 45-member group, which debuted in April, will kick off its first full season Friday evening under Robbins’s baton, with an all-Beethoven program.

Robbins said the ensemble also represents his hope for a “new type of orchestra” — one that will work to bring in new audiences through the use of social media and change the way people think about classical music.

This first official concert will be recorded and made available online, he said. Robbins added that he hopes that every musician will eventually keep a blog about his or her experience in the orchestra.

“If you allow all the members of your ensemble to be living personalities, you create an ongoing narrative of your ensemble and concerts,” he said. “You know what each musician did last week, how they prepared, even how they feel about Beethoven.”

Robbins said he came up with the idea for a media-savvy group at Yale after participating last year in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, which selected its musicians based on YouTube video auditions and encouraged the winners to post video bios on the site.

“It gave each musician a voice and an audience,” Robbins said.

Robbins is not alone in bringing new technology to the classical music scene. The Los Angeles Philharmonic has developed a mobile application and, in 2007, began asking its musicians to blog the orchestra’s world tours. Carnegie Hall, the Juilliard School and the Weill Institute of Music have all teamed up with the New York City Department of Education to create The Academy, an initiative to train recent conservatory grads as performers and teachers in the larger New York community.

Yale has been at the crest of this growing wave. Astrid Baumgardner, a co-chair on the board of the American Composers Orchestra, was recently hired by the School of Music to head up a new Office of Career Strategies. She will be teaching a class next semester on marketing, social media and audience development. SIC inC, an undergraduate ensemble founded in 2009, presents classical music alongside video components, light shows and unconventional staging.

“There’s a sense that audiences are no longer able to sit in big dark concert halls and clap politely when a bunch of guys in dark tuxedos stand up to play,” Baumgardner said. “You need to get people involved in the conversation, get them excited about something.”

But digital components are still in the works for Delphi, Robbins said. Right now, the group is just working hard to put on a good concert, pro bono.

“The only reason we’re all here is to make great music,” Nicholas Jones MUS ’12, a bassist in the orchestra, said. “Everybody here is completely focused on the goal of having a great performance.”

The Delphi Chamber Orchestra’s first concert of the season, featuring New York-based violinist Stefan Jackiw, will take place Friday at 8 p.m. in Battell Chapel.

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