Master classes are my favorite sessions to attend at conferences. Just being in the presence of great teachers is inspiring, and their words of wisdom resonate with me long after the conference. When I teach, I often find myself quoting sayings I heard at master classes and pedagogy sessions I have attended. Some of my favorites are:
“The longer the line, the greater the artist” – Jane Magrath
“If you can’t sing, you can’t play – you need to experience it inside” – Scott McBride Smith
“What is musicality? It is decency of the performer. It is the understanding of hidden meanings, connections, and completeness of the composition. It is deliciousness – not just in music, but in art and daily life” – Rozalie Levant
“Sonatinas are celebrations of contrasts” – Marvin Blickenstaff
“If you cut long notes short, you have no rhythm; if you are exact, you are too mechanical; if you are a little too late, ah – you are so musical!” Peter Mack quoting Ingrid Clarfield
“Grow like a tree when you crescendo – start small, eventually becomes magnificent” – Dang Thai Son
“Don’t feel guilty during the crescendo” – Anderson and Roe
“There are 256 pedal nuances” – Byron Janis
“Be a singer, try to be seductive” – Dmitri Rachmanov
“The Rachmaninov line aspires and then it falls down – it realizes everything is hopeless, then it tries again” – Jerome Lowenthal
“People who don’t read newspapers are uninformed, people who read newspapers are misinformed. Editions are opinions only” – John Perry quoting Mark Twain
“Learn music through life and learn life through music” – Lang Lang
I take all my conference notes on my iPad. During the recent MTNA National Conference held in Las Vegas, I found the iPad to be an absolutely indispensable tool. Not only did I use it to present my session using Keynotes, I was able to get the most out of the master classes I attended. Here are two memorable experiences:
Intermediate Masterclass with Dr. Scott McBride Smith
Dr. Scott McBride Smith’s master classes are always audience-engaging. In this master class, he integrated technology and used an innovative slide sharing tool called “slideduet.” Attendees at the master class had the option to scan the QR code or type in the URL provided and view his presentation slides in real time.
These included biographical backgrounds and pictures of each of the student performers, their teachers and various accomplishments, interesting notes about the composers and the pieces being presented, quotes, as well as pedagogical thoughts and detailed analysis of important aspects. This means there was no need to take notes. Instead, I was fully drawn to what’s happening on the stage and inspired by the way Dr. McBride Smith interacted with each of the students.
Here is the link to all the presentation slides. Notice each slide corresponds to the exact time it was presented during the master class. When I review them, I feel transported back in time to the master class itself!
Advanced Masterclass with Dr. Douglas Humphreys
I really liked the format of the advanced master classes of this year’s MTNA Conference:
1. Instead of the usual two to three participants per master class, only one student was featured – this allowed time for very detailed instruction.
2. The master teachers were teachers of the 2014 MTNA piano competition winners – this gave insight to how an extraordinary teacher works in their studio.
Professor Douglas Humphreys was METICULOUS, and this master class was worth every penny. As soon as I found out which piece was being presented, I opened the forScore app, searched for the piece on IMSLP, and downloaded the score onto my iPad. Then, I was able to follow EXACTLY what was going on in the session, as professor Humphreys dissects the piece and guides the extremely talented (and already very good young pianist) to an even higher artistic level. Because a full hour was dedicated to this session, much ground could be covered, and it was a real treat that all three movements of the Bartok Sonata were given attention. In many previous master classes I attended, too many students were assigned per hour; after each student has performed their piece, only 10-15 minutes were left for the teacher to work with the student, and usually we only got to hear how the first page should be played and then time was up! In this master class, it was like sitting in on a private lesson of the highest quality.
To demonstrate how convenient it was to have my iPad with me and how easy it was for me to take notes using the app, here are some snapshots:
Attending master classes is so enriching and necessary for a teacher to continue to grow. The next major music conference in the U.S. will be the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy scheduled for July 29-August 1. Do you plan on attending the master classes?