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Mu0n
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I attended a master class as an AUDITOR. Yes, I know. It is for the people who play the violin well enough. Anyway, I didn't like it. The instructor wasn't very happy about one of the performances and he was quite harsh one of the players. I definitely didn't want to be that person. That means, I won't be attending master classes soon.

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Master classes are really interesting to attend from the audience perspective. There is a play out called "Master Class" and it chronicles Maria Callas' life as she reminices (sp?) during a series of Master Classes she gave. It is a very good play.

Yes, the "master" can be pretty brutal. They can also provide a whole depth of insight. Generally they focus on interpretation. You've gotta have your technique and the piece down cold to qualify for one of these.

However, Janos Starker also delved into physical things in a class I observed several years back. His whole philosophy of teaching, however, is rooted in the physical way you hold the cello, etc. so it stands to reason that he would include that dimension. Interpretation, can suffer, if there is a mechanical issue, I suppose.

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Master classes are fantastic!!! I've never had the experience of having a really harsh "master," but I imagine that as long as that master is skilled enough, I wouldn't mind. Playing for the master is fun and educational, but watching the other people in your class is probably just as interesting. When you sign up for a master class (not as a spectator) make sure you find out how much time you're going to get.

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I believe that masterclasses are for the "masters".

They're more about demonstrating the master's teaching ability than teaching the student to play better.

When I see students AND "masters" play in masterclasses, I see so many things that need to be changed that I couldn't imagine approaching them in a single lesson.

[This message has been edited by HuangKaiVun (edited 09-28-2000).]

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I have observed two absolutely excellent master classes -- one by Mimi Zweig (Joshua Bell's teacher before he went to Gingold), and one by John Kendall (a well-known Suzuki pedagogue). I was rather young at the time, but they made an impression nonetheless.

Zweig was teaching primarily her own students; Kendall was teaching a group of students picked from the various attendees at the Stevens Point camp during the summer. They behaved very naturally, were unfailingly kind to the students, as well as effective teachers -- leaving no doubt that they'd be wonderful to study with privately.

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Do you really have to be good at something in order to teach it? Of course I'm not talking about the minimum limit.

For example, football coaches know the game inside out, but can't physically play themselves. Does that make them bad teachers? No, since they have sufficient mastery of the mechanisms of it.

Can't it be the same for violin? For a very astute observer who would have surveyed hundreds of violinists in his/her lifetime?

-Mu0n

[This message has been edited by Mu0n (edited 09-29-2000).]

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No, you have to have played at some point. That holds true for football too.

When you actually get onto the stage and suddenly have to belt out that "Polonaise", it's very different than having done it in the practice room.

This is where the greatest teacher-performers of the Aaron Rosand ilk show their superiority over "pedagogues" who merely "teach".

Until I hear you play for me convincingly, I as a student am not going to let you screw up the very things that allow me to get up on stage and belt that very "Polonaise" night after night.

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I attended a violin masterclass back in 1973. The teacher, Claire Hodgkins, is one of the players on the Heifetz Masterclass Videos, the lady playing Chausson's Poem.

In fact, if you want to pretty much see a top-level masterclass in action, view those eight 30-minute videos.

The masterclass I attended was associated with an "ad hoc" orchestra formed to provide a symphony of players for a conducting masterclass by Herbert Blomstedt, later conductor of the San Francisco Symphony (just before Tilson-Thomas took over).

It was quite an experience, especially so as a number of the students were Heifetz's master students at USC at the time (and played like it), and Claire was his assistant there.

The critique and guidance I recieved there established my practice routine for the next five years. Had I remained for the entire session I would have been there for two weeks. However since the practice rooms were not air conditioned, and the daytime temperatures were running 107°F in the shade of Redlands (Loma Linda) that summer, I left after a few days. (At least the orchestra rehearsal room was cooled.)

Andy

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Joseph Silverstein (fmr. BSO Concertmaster) used to give 2 or 3 a summer at Tanglewood. May still, for all I know.

Good experiences for all involved-- he was very courteous, chose to hit one point hard per student (cleaning up cross-rhythms in Brahms, or experimenting with "Baroque" bow articulation in Bach, for example), and had a lot of practical observations throughout.

And yes, he could play the **** out of anything that was brought to him.

[This message has been edited by Stephen (edited 09-29-2000).]

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At 90+ years of age, Orlando Cole, former principal cellist for the Philadelphia Orchestra, is still teaching at Curtis (and elsewhere), and still conducting occasional masterclasses for young musicians. No, he may no longer be able to demonstrate intricate passages for the participants, but he can still instruct and inspire. There is a great deal to be learned, as a participating musician and as an audience member. Of course, a single session with a great master is not the same as long-term study with that individual, but it can provide new insights and lots of food for thought.

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Andy,

I couldn't agree more! You attended in '73? Claire and Sherry Kloss currently offer master classes in Oregon every summer. Also until recently FAME offered master classes by outstanding artists (Erick Friedman, Joe dePasquale, Norman Carol, Julius Baker, etc.)The experience was enriching, and, unforgetable.

-J-

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I have attended many masterclasses, 2 of which you string players would care about (and as an auditor): Isaac Stern and Leonard Rose. Both were funny, charming, thoughtful, kind, instructive. It was thrilling when they came across a student that excited them, enlightening to see what they took notice of. Master classes are GREAT! I have great respect for masters/teachers/players (heck, anyone who tries to learn an instrument).

Re: the comment that you gotta be able to play it to teach it. As a flutist, I took a lesson with the great oboeist of the Cleveland Orchestra, John Mack (who, as far as I know, does not play the flute). Worth it? Oh yeah!

But anyone who thinks he/she has nothing to learn, absolutely, will learn nothing. I hope I never reach that point on ANY instrument or in any aspect of life.

Stacy

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The main problem with masterclasses is that they are always shorter than you would like. But because they are just one section of time with a very good musician, then I think that yes, someone could teach who plays a different instrument than the student. Of course, technique could not be addressed fully, but the whole issue of interpretation, practicing, performing issues can be dealt with quite profitably, if it is a very good, widely-experienced master. It's best though if the master plays the same instrument, because the student benefits most if he can admire and emulate the master.

For personal testimonial: I played in a master class at Bowling Green University's summer string camp with Vasile Beluska (another Heifetz student) as master, and learned much of the basic principles in musical expression, as well as received instruction on vibrato that enabled me to eventually get past my confusion and misunderstandings on that vital part of violin playing, information that eventually transformed my whole sound. All this in half an hour.

This past January I observed a Rachel Barton masterclass. There was much good advice and "food for thought" (she is an excellent player, and a great person), but I think she will be even better when she is older, and has the maturity and playing years of the great pedagogues.

Masterclasses are a great experience, but they can't substitute for regular lessons with a master. Maybe the class will help you if you need a new teacher, to know what a good teacher will be like, and maybe (like I did in Dr. Beluska's class) you will learn enough in one class to change you dramatically, but you need to feel as though you have a "masterclass" every week with your private teacher.

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  • 4 weeks later...

HKV, have you ever seen a masterclass with Maxim Vengerov? I think they are quite extraordinary, but I would like to know what you think.

I was recently fortunate enough to attend two masterclasses within the space of a month. The masters in these cases were Zukerman (the one with the review at Sheila's web site) and Maxim Vengerov. It was interesting to note the contrast in their teaching styles. Zukerman was quite chatty to the audience, often making us laugh, but when it came to the students, there was quite an element of arogance about him. He focused on one or two aspects of bowing for all the students, almost as if to imply that nothing else about their playing was worthy of his critique. At one time, he told one girl to go backstage and practice before coming back and then he would work with her some more. (I heard from another source that he totally humiliated a student in front of the audience at another of his masterclasses in Australia).

Vengerov, on the other hand, immediatly concentrated on putting the students at their ease by putting stories to the music and acting them out on the stage. Then he would talk about how to apply them to the music to make it more interesting for the audience. He would address problems by saying, "What I like about your playing is..., but have you considered..." The atmosphere was totally different, and when he spoke of technical things it was usually general such as making sure not to tighten the arm and wrist, etc. Often by taking the attention of the student away from their technical problems he is able to help them play better anyway. He obviously recognises that a single sitting is not sufficient to change a whole lifetime of learning, so he works to make the best of what is there.

I think Masterclasses are wonderful, but I believe it is an abuse of power when the master is cruel to the students.

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Masterclasses are great to the students, because they can put those teachers at their curriculum( like "I studied once with Zukerman", or Stern, or Perlman, etc.) without spend a lot of money on private lessons, and with no homework required.

Masterclasses are great for teachers, because they can show up, chat with the audience, say 2 or 3 "magical" things, and take a lot of money from a lot of proud students without spending the precious time. Sort of theatrical.

As you can notice, I`m not a fan of masterclasses...

Of course, they can be useful, or entertaining. But a little deceptive too.

But who cares?

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Phoebe: I know about the other Zukerman class in Australia to which you referred. Two of my daughter's closest friends played at that one. Both came away totally shattered. In one instance, the student was basically told she couldn't play (not true, she's excellent) and, in the other case, a phenomenally gifted player with an already fragile - and actually bordering on suicidal - ego, was rendered even more delicate by some insensitive remarks. We were shocked at what we heard after that class. The one in Sydney was at least to some degree constructive.

My daughter went through a similar experience at a violin masterclass earlier in the year. She plays viola, but was ordered by her school to participate in this class anyway. The "master" was a young violinist still making a name for herself and had nothing constructive to say to any of the students who played. It was all "I don't like the way you did ..." but no explanation of what she didn't like about it nor any suggestions on alternative ways to do it. In my daughter's case, the "master" knew nothing about the music and just dismissed her with "I hated your phrasing". She was just a total bitch to all of the students and the only lesson they came away with was about how rude some people in the business can be.

[This message has been edited by Meadow (edited 10-25-2000).]

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I haven't seen a Vengerov masterclass, but he seems to have the right personality to perform as a "master" in that situation.

I'd rather pump in a huge amount of money to take a private lesson for a few hours with a great master (as I did with Aaron Rosand) than play in any number of masterclasses he would allow me to play in for free.

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Masterclasses I have been involved with have been great experiences and horrible nightmares. Sylvia Ahramjian, a wonderful violin pedagogue in the Philly area, ran classes which made you hungry to practice and improve more. These were the same classes where one could observe a great range of the human emotions. From lively but entranced concentration to nervous breakdown and shouting matches. The key to all of these classes is to keep them in perspective to what your abilities and goals are.

Some professors use them (classes) as a forum to let you know just how important they think they are. These are the classes where the sharp criticisms and down talk prevail... don't mistake that for a teacher's/professor's push to truely improve aspects of your musicianship (in other words, don't go to these things with a piece you "forgot" to practice). Master Class is a great way to discover what you like and/or dislike in other musicians' technique.

BTW, there was a mention of Mime Zweig earlier on... I was lucky enough to have studied with her in the mid 70's... ahhh, the good old days smile.gif

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