Birds of a feather tweet together

If Chip Michael's orchestra ever plays a massive concert hall, the members may need an hour before curtain time to get acquainted with each other.

For that matter, they may need to say hello to their conductor, too.

Michael, the web coordinator for the Pacific Symphony, launched a project last March that brings musicians together through social media. The campaign, known as TwtrSymphony, initially sought a makeshift orchestra to play a composition of Michael's — and it succeeded, as more than 300 musicians answered the call.

Now, the creator is hoping to raise enough funds to create a CD in which the same group spotlights other fledgling composers' work. And he has about $17,000 more to go.

"We believe the power of TwtrSymphony is the power of social media," said Michael, a Westminster resident.

From now until April 27, TwtrSymphony is aiming to raise $20,000 on the donation website Kickstarter. As of Thursday, the campaign had garnered $2,264 in pledges from 40 backers. But even if Kickstarter doesn't work, Michael is intent on funding his project one way or another.

The TwtrSymphony saga began last year on a whim. Michael, who had written a short piano concerto, remarked to a group of friends that he wished he had an orchestra to play it. His friends suggested a novel approach: put a call for musicians on Twitter, have them record their parts separately and then piece them together in the studio.

That's "friends," incidentally, in the electronic sense.

Alexis Del Palazzo, part of the conversation that birthed TwtrSymphony, lives in Pennsylvania and has never met Michael in person. Through the music scene, Michael located and started following Del Palazzo — or was it the other way around? As is often the case with social media, Del Palazzo and Michael couldn't quite remember.

Regardless, she found the concept intriguing, and she felt giddy when she found the TwtrSymphony handle the next morning.

"There are so many great ideas put out on Twitter, and most of the time, because of the stream-of-consciousness thing, they never come to fruition," Del Palazzo said. "So it's very interesting to see what Chip has done with the idea."

Michael had one problem with his composition: He realized that a concerto, which often features improvisation by soloists, would best be recorded with the musicians in one room. So instead, he wrote a short symphony, "Birds of a Feather," as TwtrSymphony's debut piece.

When musicians responded to the call, Michael sent them the sheet music for their individual parts, plus a click track for rhythm. With hundreds of saxophone, guitar, recorder and other parts landing in his inbox from around the world, the composer chose a lineup of more than 60 musicians and three sound engineers, assembled four YouTube videos and watched with amazement as they collected more than 4,000 views.

Ronnal Ford, who lives in North Carolina and plays the oboe and English horn in an ensemble, contacted Michael when he heard about the project from Twitter friends. The lack of pay didn't matter to him, he said; he relished the opportunity to be first to perform a new piece.

"Even my quintet here, we're always looking for composers to write new music for us," he said. "It's always nice to do things no one has done before."

It's that opportunity — multiplied — that Michael hopes to provide with his Kickstarter project.

In December, he put out a call to composers to send in scores for consideration. The time limit for each score was 140 seconds, inspired by the 140-character limit on Twitter. When the submission period ended in March, coincidentally enough, Michael had about 140 scores — though he's now paring them down to 20 or 30 for the CD, which is scheduled for release next March.

When the album is pressed, he plans to mail copies to conductors and music directors for orchestras around the world; the recordings will also be available to the public through mp3 downloads and videos. Funds raised on Kickstarter will go to pay the musicians and also cover production and distribution costs.

The ultimate goal, Michael said, is to give a boost to composers who are struggling to build a reputation or forge connections with the music industry.

"Composers need to do more than just write music," he said. "They have to build a fan base."

Of course, a built-in fan base doesn't hurt — as of Thursday, TwtrSymphony had 3,379 followers on Twitter.

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

How to get involved

Visit TwtrSymphony on its website at or on Twitter at For the fundraising campaign, visit

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