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Minnesotan Marc Levine wins seat in YouTube orchestra

Who knew the route to Carnegie Hall could start with a YouTube video?

“I don’t think anyone would have guessed it,” says Marc Levine, a violinist who just won a seat in a 100-member orchestra that will play April 15 in Carnegie Hall.

The YouTube Symphony Orchestra is believed to be the world’s first collaborative online orchestra. Two-hundred finalists were initially selected from their audition videos, then they were at the mercy of voters.

Levine won enough votes to get his second chance to play in Carnegie Hall, this time with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting. (Levine played in the smaller Weill Recital Hall with the Stony Brook String Quartet.) Could it be that this last-minute MinnPost blurb landed him a seat in the big hall? 

More likely it’s his talent. Levine started taking violin lessons at age 3 with Ellen Kim at the Jewish Community Center in St. Paul. “She’s a great violin teacher,” he says. He went on to study with her husband, Young-Nam Kim, a violinist and professor at the University of Minnesota. Ditto the admiration there.

Levine, now 29, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Indiana University and doctorate at Stony Brook University in New York. He has been earning his keep as a freelance violinist and teacher. He and his wife, Tami Morse, live on Long Island and have a baroque duo called Flying Forms. She’s the harpsichordist. 

Will the YouTube gig help his career? “I don’t know — it might do nothing or a little bit or a lot. I’m not a YouTuber and I’m not someone who has ever posted anything before.” He shot the video with a borrowed flip cam, propping the camcorder on hymnals on a stand at a church, and running back and forth to make sure it was recording. Here’s that video.  

“I felt there are new mediums coming and this was a fantastic opportunity to become a part of it,” he said about the audition. “I’m just a musician teaching some kids and playing gigs and stuff.”

Between now and the big concert, the winners are supposed to be making videos of themselves on the road to Carnegie Hall. Levine just bought a netbook laptop with a web camera, thinking that will be easier to use.

If you can’t make it to New York for the Carnegie Hall concert, Levine and Morse (as Flying Forms) will perform in late March in St. Paul. They will perform in the Shubert Club’s courtroom series, 12:05 p.m. March 26 in Room 317 at the Landmark Center. The duo also will play at 4 p.m. on March 29 at House of Hope.

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