Whether performing an individual recital or in an ensemble, musicians want to share their experience with an audience.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the usual performance experience for Illinois State University School of Music students, faculty and staff, as well as for families, friends, and patrons who regularly attend the events. And while COVID-19 has driven the school to creatively find new ways to share music, social distancing and state and professional recommendations for performing arts venues have led to empty seats in the performance spaces.

During a regular academic year, the School of Music hosts approximately 300 live events that include student recitals; alumni and other special guest recitals and master classes; studio and chamber recitals; and concerts for the bands, orchestra, and choral ensembles.

While the larger groups have been broken into smaller ensembles, the number of events limited, and performances only available to audiences via live stream and YouTube, music is still actively being created and performed amidst the challenges.

“The School of Music Virtual Audience project was created as a fun way to fill the empty seats and serve as physical encouragement to performers through the spring 2021 semester,” said Adriana Ransom, interim director of the School of Music. “Each Reggie Redbird or personal cutout represents a person, a family, or a group of supporters continuing to cheer on the performers.”

The Virtual Audience project also serves as a fundraiser to help offset some of the loss of ticket sale revenue. Typically, ticket sale revenue directly supports the activities and programs in the School of Music in a variety of ways, including funding special guest artists and speakers; operational costs that include equipment, instruments, classroom needs; student initiatives; and opportunities not covered through tuition such as invitations to workshops, conferences, and competitions.

The cutouts will remain in the audience until the end of this academic year, and those interested in participating in the Virtual Audience project can “choose their seats” by selecting their preferred level of support.

For every ten $10 Student Rush “Seat” donation, one Reggie Redbird cutout will be added to the Concert Hall audience. Additionally, donors in this level can designate an instrument. For every $100 given toward a designated instrument, an instrument lapel “pin” will be added to one Reggie’s suit jacket to represent that instrument in the audience. RSOs and other University organizations are also welcome to participate.

For every four $25 Balcony “Seat” donation, one Reggie Redbird cutout will be added to the Concert Hall audience. Additionally, Illinois State University faculty and staff have the option to choose that their gift be applied toward a Reggie Redbird cutout or enter a weekly drawing for a personal headshot cutout.

For every $100 Mezzanine “Seat” donation, one cutout will be added to the Concert Hall audience from a choice of either a Reggie Redbird or personal headshot cutout. For every $200 Orchestra Circle “Seat” donation, one cutout will be added to the Concert Hall audience from a choice of either a Reggie Redbird or personal headshot cutout. Donors in this level will also receive four tickets to any ticketed School of Music event in the future, excluding Music for the Holidays.

For every $500 Box “Seats” donation, two cutouts will be added to the Concert Hall audience from a choice of either Reggie Redbird or personal headshot cutouts. Bring a Guest! Donors in this level will also receive four tickets to any ticketed School of Music event in the future AND four tickets to a future Music for the Holidays concert.

Donations over $500 will receive VIP designation, with at least two cutouts added to the Concert Hall audience (depending on amount of donation). Donors in this level will also receive four tickets to any ticketed School of Music event in the future AND four tickets to a future Music for the Holidays concert.

Donations of any amount are welcome and will be applied toward adding virtual audience members.

“We hope this project can be a way for both our musicians and audience to feel connected, something that people have been missing this year, while also allowing us to continue supporting the many diverse programs and majors within the School of Music,” Ransom said.

As a special bonus, donors to this project will be invited to an exclusive live stream concert to be held on Sunday, January 24, 2021

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