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Smule at the Symphony

July 16, 2009

When I first heard about the The San Francisco Symphony's online Social Networking project, I wasn't all that excited. I thought that it wouldn't attract that many people as classical music concert goers tend to be of an older generation and I imagined it would turn out to be a bit like a sparsely attended Facebook.

The Symphony is proving me wrong though. The Social Network turns out to be a fascinating place to meet people with all kinds of weird and wonderful musical interests. And I'm pretty impressed with the ways in which the organization is leveraging the Web to create buzz around and interest in on-stage musical events.

Take the Smule Group, for instance. I joined this group -- which brings together musicians who use Smule apps to turn their iPhones and iPod Touches into musical instruments -- within the Network a couple of weeks ago. I don't yet own an iPhone or iPod, but I was totally intrigued by the way in which the Symphony is bringing all the musical gearheads who like to do more than listen to other people's music on their PDAs. If I end up getting one of Apple's coveted gadgets, I'm pretty sure I'll be learning to play the ocarina or leaf trombone before too long.

There were about 20 members on the Smule Group when I joined. Now there are 150. One of the main reasons why people are excited about the Smule Group on the Social Network is because of the current tie-in with this weekend's Final Fantasy concert at Davies Symphony Hall. Led by conductor Arnie Roth, San Francisco Symphony will play the music from the popular Final Fantasy video game series by the Japanese video game composer Nobuo Uematsu. The concert will feature videos and art stills shown on massive screens highlighting the games. The event will very likely attract a different audience from the usual Symphony crowd which I'm curious to be part of.

The Smule Group is not only running a competition to win tickets to the concert and an iPod Touch loaded with Smule musical apps, but Smule's Marketing Manager, Turner Kirk, is also running a free Ocarina Master Class after the concert at the front of the Davies Symphony Hall stage for interested concert ticket holders. Kirk will provide tips on playing the iPod touch or iPhone. Attendees will practice an excerpt from the music from Final Fantasy and the whole event will culminate with an instant ocarina orchestra reprise of part of the concert.

The Smule Group activities and the concert look like they might provide a perfect mixture of live concert, demonstration, interactive educational experience and technology. If the event goes well, the San Francisco Symphony's Social Networking activities will doubtless provide a model for other orchestras' communication and community-building endeavors.

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