What is a masterclass?

Monday, October 20, 2014 by Matt Cosgrove | Performance

I have been writing about the Anton Baranov masterclass at Kalamazoo College to be held on October 30th. If you are not sure what a masterclass is, keep reading. In essence, a student performs for a master teacher for the benefit of other guitarists attending in the audience. So, there are three roles in a masterclass: the concert artist or teacher, the student, and a small audience.

The concert artist or teacher

Traditionally, masterclasses are taught by concert performers while they are in a particular area for a concert. Andres Segovia masterclasses  gained a reputation for being particularly brutal. In contrast, Julian Bream masterclasses were a little more light-hearted and jovial.  Check out these other master teachers as well.  Scott Tennant,  Adam DelMonte, Denis Azabagic, and many more.

The masterclass format can also be used on a weekly basis by class guitar instructors as well. I find that it is useful for a few reasons. First it eliminates the challenge of finding the right piece that will be relevant to several different guitarist at varying levels. It motivates the student to practice better when he knows he will be performing in front of his piers. And lastly, it gives the teacher an opportunity to address specific needs of each individual student in the group.

The student

Students are selected to perform in a masterclass based on the style, repertoire, and the student’s level of playing. It is generally a bad idea to put a self taught banjo player on stage with a professional steel string acoustic player. The pro will have a deeper level of advice to offer to a player of similar style.

It is often good when working with players with advanced repertoire, to look at the discography of the concert artist. If the concert artist has played a given piece, his comments again will be deeper and more relevant. However, most times a concert artist will be able to sight read any piece a masterclass performer will put in front of a master teacher.

The level of the player in recent times has become less relevant when selecting students to perform. The teacher generally selects the students playing at the highest level. The most important factor is that the student is playing the piece the best he knows how.

The audience

The audience consists of musicians ready to listen and learn. A typical masterclass will have four to six performers. When they are not performing, they are in the audience learning from the comments being offered to their piers.

I am excited to have our first classical guitar masterclass at Kalamazoo College on Thursday, October 30th at 11:30 am. If you are interested in performing contact me.  If you would like to attend, you can find details here.  Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment and share liberally. :)