What is a Masterclass?

The following is a guest post by Anne, our recital and masterclass coordinator.

What is a Masterclass?

Every Monday, I would sit for 45 minutes on the floor of one of the large dance rooms. All the rooms in the music building were taken up by the instrumentalists and we vocalists, carrying our own instruments in our throats, had to make our way to the theater and dance building for our Masterclass. It was a required course, every Monday for all four years of my performance degree. And I learned a lot in that class.

We just had our 4th Pre-Recital Masterclass on Saturday, and it was wonderful! We had a great group of students run through their recital song, get to use the microphone and grand piano, and get to laugh while getting tips on how to get their songs just that bit closer to performance ready. It was a great opportunity for them to overcome some stage fright and get to know some of their fellow musicians. But what, you may be asking, is a masterclass?

A masterclass allows musicians to sing or play through their songs, and then once they are done, have a teacher critique them, giving them advice on vocal, instrumental, or performance technique. But what, you might again be asking, is the difference between that and a rehearsal?

A rehearsal is simply the time you run through a song and make sure that you know it. The masterclass isn’t just a place for students to go through their songs and sit down. Students have already done all that hard work, and they are ready to go from singing a song to performing a song. The masterclass is the place where we learn to perform. We learn how to use the microphone, we learn how it feels to play a grand piano, we learn what it is like to sing in front of an audience. But there are less obvious benefits as well.

The masterclass gives you a chance to try things you might not have thought of before. It is the place to experiment with a whole array of movements that you never thought you would try, or to go for that high note that you secretly want to sing. It is a safe place to find out if something works, and it is a safe place to be brave in your performance. It’s a place to see what others are doing and think to yourself, “I want to try that, too!” It’s okay to make a mistake, or to laugh, or to forget words. Students are here to try new things, to experience performing in a new place, and to learn to roll with the proverbial punches.

Performing is scary. I’ve been doing it for years and it never stops being scary. But the masterclass offers a chance for students to be brave, to knock out some of their nerves, and to be an audience for their peers who are just as nervous as they are. It teaches them to be better performers, not only when they are up in the spotlight, but when their friends are as well.

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