‘It’s not so scary anymore. It’s actually exhilarating’: A proof-of-concept study using virtual reality technology for music performance training under pressure


  • Margaret Osborne University of Melbourne
  • Solange Glasser University of Melbourne
  • Ben Loveridge University of Melbourne




musicians, immersive environments, performance anxiety, educational technology


Extended lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic severely ruptured the capacity of performing artists to connect with peers and colleagues in professional and educational contexts. In this study we test a protocol for the use of immersive performance technologies in tertiary institutions to provide developing and early career musicians to connect with pedagogues and access safe, realistic spaces within which to practice performing under varying degrees of pressure. We investigated the affordances of a VR environment to trigger performance anxiety, and the effectiveness of a synchronous digitally mediated environment for tertiary educators to train a key performance psychology skill. Heart rate, self-reported anxiety and confidence measurements were taken over four levels of situational stress and performance demands. Results revealed that the technology enabled a pre-performance routine to be effectively taught online by an instructor to a musician wearing a VR headset. Notably, this was achieved by both participants being in separate locations without detriment to the teacher-student relationship. This study provides encouraging insight into the capacity for immersive technologies to help students effectively manage the stresses of live performance in both virtual and real worlds.

Author Biographies

Margaret Osborne, University of Melbourne

Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Music (Performance Science)

Convenor - Master of Professional Psychology

Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences | Melbourne Conservatorium of Music

The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010 Australia

Solange Glasser, University of Melbourne

Lecturer in Music (Music Psychology)

Melbourne Conservatorium of Music | Faculty of Fine Arts and Music

The University of Melbourne

Ben Loveridge, University of Melbourne

Coordinator, Immersive Media (AR/VR)

Learning Environments | Student and Scholarly Services

The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010 Australia