I’ve never really gotten into the term “Master Class”. First off, it just sounds scary. Second, it usually is scary! And yet, it is a valuable part of the pre-professional and college level experience, fear and all. I like the idea of giving my adult students some of that conservatory-style foundation, with a slightly different spin. For instance, in drumming up participants for my upcoming tour, here are some candidates I would love to work with:

Someone with stage fright issues. As someone who never had it as a kid and then developed it as a college student, I can sympathize. Together, we can craft a playing environment and repeatable approach to take the teeth out of playing under observation. If this very idea terrifies you, you should consider signing up. The weight of avoiding performances is a heavy burden that affects much of your approach.

Do you have an old favorite piece that is stuck or stagnant? Let’s knock the dust off of it and give you practical methods for continuing to improve even the most familiar etudes, songs, or concerti.

Are you a dreamer? Are you messing with a challenging piece without the help of a private teacher? Let’s take a few hours and knock out some of the tricky passages so you can work better on your own.

Have you never learned or gotten into scales? Allow me to give you this gift! I was a scale avoider, myself. Let’s fill in that gap and improve every aspect of your playing. If you played nothing but scales for a month, you would improve dramatically. If you play a bunch of scales AND do your normal etudes and pieces, you won’t believe the change in quality of sound and technical security.

I have a few people already signed up for this tour (please send me the enrollment forms!), and tons of interest in the more northerly East Coast tour in April. There is always the option of a day or two of private lessons only. The purpose of my visit is to help, and the more entrenched the habit, the scarier the issue, the less you think you can succeed, the more benefits you’ll reap. How do I know?

I’ve been there.

In case you were wondering:

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4 thoughts on “Should you participate in a Master Class?”

  1. Such a healthy way to look at masterclasses – everytime I've been around one it's always: These are the best players here & we held auditions, etc., etc. … but I always wonder if they're really the kids who need it (sometimes the answer's yes), or if it wouldn't be better to mix it & do half-advanced students & and half-non-advanced students.

    And masterclasses are always piece-oriented instead of say oriented around technique or an idea that someone would like to work on (stagefright, playing w/ less tension, etc.)

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  2. The “gift” of scales? I suspect some folks might choose a different noun 🙂

    Actually, I can clearly remember when my first teacher (not Manon) taught me the universal, no open strings, pattern. I remember that it was on F major, two octaves, which allows intonation checking against open strings for at least one note in each “handful”. I was quite excited about it – any two octave scale in five “handfuls”.

    ‘Tis the gift, to play scales….

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  3. Mike: Thanks! The whole point of any class is to learn, not demonstrate knowledge. I think that focusing on only the piece is sort of like an exterminator coming into a house and swatting flies. I like to look at continuing issues and unreliable aspects of a player’s approach. I say that interpretation is a function of good technique and solid approach. If you have little to no barriers between what you hear in your head and what you can produce with your hands, then there’s your artistry. There’s your interpretation, that’s how it becomes personal. My job is to find those barriers and go to work on them. A master class is not a celebration of my teaching or a mini concert for an advanced student. It should be an opportunity to watch the learning process and find parallels with your playing or your teaching. I’m doing this tour so I can teach more, learn more, become a better more useful teacher and share some of the keys that have really helped me feel at ease with the cello. I’m very much looking forward to the next tour as well, where I hope we’ll meet and have a great time. 🙂

    Terry: it is! I can’t believe Ron kept me on as long as he did. I hardly worked my scales at all. It really was about 3 or 4 years later that I started applying all of his (and Cathy’s) great advice, and now I do those things like a religious devotion.

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  4. I’ve participated in two “traditional” Master Classes (on the classical guitar), and I really don’t think I got ANYTHING out of either experience, other than embarrassment as the “Master” in both classes (two different men) proceeded to show me how I was doing everything wrong in front of the class (oversimplification, but you get the picture).
    I like/love your approach Emily SO much better – can’t wait till April when you pass thru my territory!
    Brian

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