There's a new way to get to Carnegie Hall - YouTube, YouTube, YouTube.

Borrowing from "American Idol," the online video site announced plans Monday for a YouTube Symphony Orchestra, featuring a collaboration of wannabe musicians with Carnegie Hall, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, composer Tan Dun and others.

Through Jan. 28, musicians can submit entries as they perform two videos: a display of their musical talents and an interpretation of an original work by Tan, who won an Academy Award for 2000's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."
A panel of experts from some of the world's leading orchestras will narrow the field. YouTube users will then vote for the winners, who will be announced March 2.

In April, those selected will be flown to New York to participate in a three-day workshop with Thomas, culminating in a Carnegie Hall performance on April 15 of what Tan calls his "Internet Symphony No. 1 - Eroica."

Clips of the video entries of Tan's piece - which immodestly shares the name of one of Beethoven's most famous works - will be woven together to create a living YouTube symphony.

"This thing is huge," Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony, said in an interview Monday. "Five months from now, I know that we're doing something. Exactly who's doing it, I don't know. Exactly what it is, I don't know. So my ability to tell you exactly what's going to happen on that day - at the moment - is: I don't know. That's part of the adventure of the whole thing."

The announcement heralds the beginning of a global initiative between YouTube and the classical music world with the enthusiastic participation of such luminaries as Thomas and the pianist Lang Lang, and many elite orchestras, including the London Symphony.

It's a stark melding of high and low culture, complete with the "Idol"-style competition.

"The potential of YouTube is to bring classical music closer to people's lives so that it's something that they can reach out to more easily," said Thomas, who also plans to use YouTube to help tell the history of classical musical.

Though it might be clear why classical music might be eager to find a younger audience online, it's less evident why the Google Inc.-owned video site would endeavor to join forces with a music genre that's so much more sophisticated than the usual bedroom singing performances that largely populate its site.

"From our point of view, this is an exciting project because we're giving our users interaction with people that they haven't had before," said YouTube marketing executive Ed Sanders. "Classical music has embraced YouTube a lot more than people think."

Tan likened the Internet to "an invisible Silk Road" that can blend ideas from all over the world. Thomas, with tongue in cheek, said he's enjoyed discovering the "highly idiosyncratic talent" on YouTube.

Indeed, the YouTube audience has shown an admiration for musical virtuosity beyond ramshackle karaoke. With more than 52 million views, one of YouTube's most popular videos ever is a clip of young Korean guitarist Jeong-Hyun Lim ("funtwo") playing a rock cover of Pachelbel's "Canon in D."

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