The idea of the virtual audience was brought to me by Michele Gingras, Clarinet faculty at Miami University. Michele has published a few articles in trade journals and magazines about stage fright from the point of view of the musician.
The original idea was to help musicians get used to the distracting things audiences can do (coughing, cell phones, rattling candy wrappers, etc.) during a performance that might keep a musician from focusing on their playing. Through Michele’s observations, students can easily focus on breathing, posture, fingering and the notes when they are in the security of their own comfort bubble (their room or a practice area). The problem begins during a performance. As the musician plays, inevitably an audience member will cause a distraction. That distraction has potential to throw the students focus off of the music and brings awareness back to things that may be insignificant to the actual playing (hair, clothing were examples) which could lead to mistakes.
The original medium was to be DVD. The students could play a loopable DVD with audience footage while they practiced. The audience would do distracting things, and the video would loop until turned off.
Stay tuned for an update as production begins.
11/12/12 update- If you are interested in the V.A. download, please see this post.