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Brickyard Broadcast: A Musical Event With World Premier in Virtual Reality

North Carolina State University Department of Music and award winning composer Lisa Bielawa created the VR musical experience to help musicians cope with self-isolation.


Can choirs and orchestras still perform together during lockdown? Since they cannot be together in the same physical space, technology has the solution: a virtual reality musical experience bringing together musicians self-isolating at home.

This is not a theoretical concept, but a reality which you can experience on November 12 by joining the Brickyard Broadcast virtual reality event. It is organized by North Carolina State University Department of Music and benefits from the contribution of award-winning composer Lisa Bielawa.

Brickyard Broadcast – a VR Musical Event That Brings Musicians Together Safely

The current pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives, but some people are affected more than others. While individual musicians can still perform in the online environment, choirs and orchestras find it almost impossible to continue making music together.

The solution to this issue came to two key figures at North Carolina State University Department of Music: Dr. Peter Askim, Director of Orchestral Studies, and Dr. Nathan Leaf, Director of Choral Activities. They commissioned composer Lisa Bielawa to create and produce a live virtual reality musical event.

Lisa Bielawa

Brickyard Broadcast will take place in a virtual space that recreates the well-known public gathering space in front of D.H. Hill Jr. Library of NC State University.

Creating a Unique Virtual Reality Musical Experience 

Two major elements come together in making Brickyard Broadcast possible. First, there is the work of creating the VR environment of the Brickyard. The immersive experience will not mimic the physical space itself, but render a creative interpretation.

The virtual reality environment was created by Jason Evan Groth (Digital Media Librarian), Colin Keenan (University Libraries Specialist), Kyle Langdon (Universities Libraries Specialist and Audio Engineer), Ian Boyd (NC State University Library Specialist), and Sarah Hassan (NC State University Libraries Pentair Fellow).

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On the other hand, hundreds of musicians recorded pieces of music composed by Bielawa during the fall 2020 semester, while self-isolating at their homes. These musicians are members of the NC State orchestras, the NC State choirs, and the Concert Singers of Cary.

The Talent Behind the VR Musical Experience

Composer and producer Bielawa holds several prestigious awards, such as the Rome Prize for Musical Composition and the 2017 Music Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. For 2020, she has secured the Discovery Grant from OPERA America’s Grants for Female Composers for her work in progress, the opera Centuries in the Hours.

In keeping with her acclaimed style, the texts accompanying the music for Brickyard Broadcast will be well-known literary masterpieces by authors such as Walt Whitman, Frank Lloyd Wright, H.G. Wells, and Gertrude Stein.

What Can the Audience Expect From Brickyard Broadcast?

The virtual reality musical experience will consist of 20 minutes of music, followed by a Q&A session with composer Bielawa, Askim, and Leaf.

This will not be an online concert in the sense of bringing the musicians together and sharing the performance on a video platform. Instead, each musician will create an avatar of themselves and come together in the virtual Brickyard.

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Spectators can choose between a curated sound experience and the self-guided modular experience. If you want to join this unique virtual reality musical experience, visit the official website of NC State University Department of Music. The link for Brickyard Broadcast will be posted on November 12, ahead of the start of the event at 6 pm ET.

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