Southbank Sinfonia: Virtual auditions give global players the chance to shine

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No need to travel as Southbank Sinfonia recruits artists around the world using a Cisco TelePresence solution from BT

Every year some of the world’s best young musicians would jet into London to audition for a bursary with the Southbank Sinfonia.

Simon Over wanted to cut down on those thousands of air miles and hours in transit. He also didn’t want to miss out on youngsters who couldn’t afford the fare.

A chance discussion with BT at a concert gave Simon the answer. With Cisco TelePresence video conferencing from BT, he can see and hear people perform at locations the world over, just as though they’re with him in London. Now Simon’s orchestra nurtures not only outstanding talents but a greener future too.

Using the TelePresence auditions, we recruited people from New Zealand, from Spain, and from Scotland. In the process we saved 20 tonnes of carbon; we didn’t fly 55,000 miles; and we saved thousands of pounds.”
- Simon Over, Director of Music Southbank Sinfonia


The inspiration of its founder and Director of Music, Simon Over, Southbank Sinfonia exists to support a group of outstanding musicians at a critical point in their careers. Simon explains where the idea came from: “While conducting a group of young conservatoire students, I was struck not only by their dedication and outstanding talent, but also by the uncertainty they faced in beginning their professional careers. Our aim is to provide an ensemble that will offer its members a springboard into the music profession.”

Every year a new orchestra of 32 music graduates, each supported by bursary, is selected for a full-time programme of public performance and professional development. By broadening their skills, exposing them to a wide range of performing experiences, and giving them a perspective beyond the solely technical aspects of musical execution, those artists emerge better equipped to succeed in their vocations. The Southbank Sinfonia ethos also encourages them to enthuse others with their own passion for music throughout their careers.

Southbank auditions and selects musicians from around the globe. The fact that one candidate flew the Atlantic from Boston to audition for only 15 minutes provides an idea of the scale of competition for entry.

Simon Over observes: “While that level of commitment is highly commendable, it’s not very green. Nor is it very inclusive, as not everyone can afford to fly to London, even for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

BT and Cisco are both enthusiastic sponsors of Southbank Sinfonia. When BT Conferencing attended a Southbank Sinfonia concert the topic of international auditions was raised in conversation with Simon Over.


BT runs a Cisco TelePresence™ global video conferencing network. That technology brings together high-definition visual technology with hi-fi audio technology, which means that the sound is both crystal clear and spatial.

The global network that underpins the BT Cisco TelePresence platform enables it to be operated between multiple points virtually anywhere on the planet. Ideally for the Southbank Sinfonia recruitment programme, TelePresence would enable a musical audition to take place as if the parties were in the same room – even though they might be continents apart.

Southbank Sinfonia worked with BT and Cisco to schedule a series of global auditions. Then, without any fuss, the Southbank Sinfonia selection panel took their seats in the BT Centre TelePresence suite near St Paul’s Cathedral.

Simon Over brings the virtual tour to life: “At three o’clock in the afternoon we were in Madrid and heard a trumpeter and violinist there. At five o’clock we were in Glasgow and heard more players there. At seven o’clock we shifted to New York; and then at nine o’clock to Auckland, New Zealand.”

Logistically the exercise was hassle-free and seamless, but what was Simon Over’s experience of the technology? “We could observe very clearly how everyone was performing,” he says, “for example, looking at what their bowing hands were doing, and how they were moving around the instrument. Most importantly, in terms of sound quality, it really was as though they were in the same room with us.”


To select the 32 players for its ensemble, Southbank Sinfonia heard over 140 candidates during the course of one week, including the TelePresence-enabled global auditions.

On the basis of that sound success, another virtual recruitment round is planned for next year’s ensemble.

The Southbank Sinfonia example shows that in evaluating if a candidate is fit for purpose, whether for an orchestra or for a business setting, auditions and interviews carried out over TelePresence are highly effective. In some cases recruitment decisions can be made there and then, or the field can be rapidly narrowed down to the “must see” short list for a second round of assessments. In either case, there are hugely significant time, cost, and environmental savings.

Core Services

  • BT One Collaborate video – BT-supplied Cisco TelePresence video conferencing technology running over the BT IP Connect global network platform


Case study