LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California surgeon Calvin Lee has barely picked up his violin for 15 years but on Monday he was named a member of the first YouTube Symphony Orchestra and next month he plays at Carnegie Hall with the group.
Lee was one of more than 90 musicians who earned a place in the orchestra created by the populist video sharing Web site by auditioning — not in person but through Web videos.
The YouTube Symphony Orchestra of amateur and professional musicians will make its debut at Carnegie Hall on April 15.
Lee, 38, dazzled online viewers with his video audition at YouTube.com by playing “Presto” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Violin Sonata in G minor, despite all but quitting the violin before medical school.
The strings on the violin were 15 years old and Lee’s fingers had not developed the calluses that come with frequent playing and make it easier to handle the instrument.
“You see me wincing on the video, it’s actually from real pain,” Lee said. “It may be pain from playing the wrong note, but it’s also physical pain.”
Lee, who played violin in college, said he recently took up music again to help his dexterity as a general surgeon. “Music is an art form and actually I believe that surgery is an art form as well,” he said.
YouTube.com received more than 3,000 video auditions. The final group of more than 90 musicians were chosen by a combination of online votes from the public and judging by musicians from major orchestras.
The members of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra will travel to New York from nearly 30 countries for a three-day meeting with San Francisco Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas, leading up to the April 15 Carnegie Hall show.
During the auditions, the musicians gave each other feedback in comments posted online and by e-mail. That could help the orchestra when it forms next month.
“It’s interesting that in the real world this will be the first time they come together,” said Ed Sanders, a YouTube product marketing manager. “But they’ve actually had a lot of togetherness since the beginning of the project.”
YouTube, which is owned by search giant Google Inc, had more than 100 million users in December, according to data from tracking firm comScore.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Jill Serjeant and David Storey