He's virtually famous

Bradley professor finds Second Life as online entertainer to the virtual community

Thursday, October 25, 2007. Peoria Journal Star, - Gary Panetta

In real life, Ed Lamoureux is associate professor of Bradley University's multimedia program.

But in virtual life, Lamoureux is known as Professor Beliveau or simply The Professor - a hip, muscular balding avatar, or online character, who sports shades and a mean guitar.

He plays weekly at the Mystic Hill Swing and Dance Club, one of many clubs located in Second Life, a virtual online community. (To hear Lamoureux' weekly performances, you have to sign up for Second Life at http://secondlife.com)

Cue recently caught up with the Bradley professor to watch him do a live performance at Bradley's Caterpillar Global Communications Center. The show was mixed and streamed, then received in Second Life, where it was heard at Mystic Hill by a dozen or so fans.

- Gary Panetta

Q. Really briefly, what is Second Life? Who runs it? How many people participate worldwide?

Second Life is a virtual, online community that is global in nature and is owned and operated by an outfit called Linden Lab in San Francisco. They claim roughly about eight million accounts have been registered, but they admit that only maybe a million and half people visit Second Life every sixty days or so. There are usually only about 40,000 concurrent users online 24-7.

Q. Where are you performing on Second Life? When? Who is your avatar?

I play as The Professor. My avatar name in Second Life is Professor Beliveau, but I play as The Professor. I play once a week. I play every Saturday night - central time 7 o'clock to 8 o'clock, but in Second Life we go by "SL time," which is Pacific, because Linden Lab is in San Francisco. So I play from 5 to 6 SL time at a place called the Mystic Hill Swing and Dance Club.

I've been playing there since March of this year almost weekly. I've missed a couple of weeks. I've also played a couple of other venues. They had a virtual Summer of Love Festival this summer, I've played that. But (Mystic Hill) is sort of my Second Life playing home, so I play there every week.

Q.Talk about what kind of music you perform.

(Laughs). Oh boy. It's sort of an eclectic mix of folk rock from my childhood in the '60s through trying to pick up some contemporary music from every period in between and a couple of originals.

Q.How many avatar fans show up on the average to hear you?

On the average, probably about 16. I have probably 24 some nights and on some nights as few as 10.

Q.And these people are from where?

All over.

Q.All over the country?

Literally, all over the world. I'll just list some places. There are people living in Vancouver, BC, there are people who listen from Australia, Hong Kong, here in Peoria, Chicago, Portland, Ore., and there's a couple I know of in the East Coast. All over.

Q.How do audiences find you?

There are a number of ways that we list our shows, and a number of ways we promote our shows. We use e-mail to potentially interested friends, family and acquaintances. We have available to us an events calendar that is part of the Second Life software so that it appears in what we call "In World." People who are in Second Life can see the events calendar, search it, find a show, press a button and immediately transport themselves to that show. There's also a Web version of that. So people who go to Linden software on the Web can find it as well.

Q.I noticed a lot of reactions from the audiences on the computer screen. They type messages to you. They give you tips.

Normally, I project (the concert at Mystic Hill) on the screen in front of me so we can see who's there and what they're saying, and try to interact with them as best as I can. There is a time lag because of the streaming situation. What they hear and what they say would be behind what I am doing. So there's sort of a secret to keeping up with them in the right time.

Q.Why are you doing this?

Well, I played music when I was young. I performed. I always thought it was a lot of fun. I haven't done it a lot since. I was in theater when I was young. I haven't done it a lot. I did it more when I was younger. I enjoy it. It strikes me as sort of a release and helps me feel better. I've had some medical trouble in the last year and playing and singing helps me feel better. I always wanted to sing and play for people. ...

One of the things that we know about virtual worlds is that they enable people to sometimes do things that they really want to do but maybe they can't do otherwise.

For example, we know that reticent or shy people very often are much more outgoing in virtual worlds. They feel less threatened.

So someone like me who because I read off of chord chart sheets, I read chords and words while I'm playing - I couldn't get away with that in a bar. They'd throw me out in a heartbeat. So I couldn't play. It would be very unlikely for me to play a set at an open mic event in town for a number of reasons.

I've had carpal tunnel surgery on this hand, ulnar nerve surgery on this arm. My hands don't work anymore. So I do the best I can. It does give me a place to do this, where I wouldn't otherwise be able to do it.

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Ed Lamoureux performs as Professor Beliveau from 7 to 8 p.m. on Saturdays. To virtually attend his gig at Mystic Hill Swing and Dance Club, sign up for Second Life at http://secondlife.com.