Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Benefits of Master Classes

Master classes are a type of group lesson.  Multiple students take turns playing or singing something they are working on in front of the other learners.  The listeners then comment on what they hear or see and the person who performed has a chance to try out any suggestions offered.

Benefit 1 - Eases Performance Anxiety

Master classes provide a low-stress environment for people who are not used to playing or singing in front of others.  Everyone knows that any piece is a work in progress and will not be perfect and everyone in attendance will take a turn in front.  This builds trust between the musicians making it easier to get in front.

Benefit 2 - A Place to Learn HOW to Perform

For many people their first experience playing or singing in front of others is at their recital.  They have one chance to perform and it would be rude to interrupt them to give a tip so they could restart.  With master classes, before a recital everyone will have a chance to perform as though it is the recital.  This allows the performer a chance to fix any errors and to restart.

Benefit 3 - Listening is Half the Battle

Being able to play or sing something well is all about being able to hear it and hearing music is so much more than listening to the radio.  By sitting in a master class the listener is able to hear how small changes affect the sound of the music.  They will hear how a change in posture affects the tone quality of a singer.  They will hear how playing forte changes the feeling of a piece.  They hear it better as an observer than when in their own lessons.

Benefit 4 - Critiquing Accelerates Learning

First off, critiquing is not criticizing.  Critiquing involves noticing what went well, what stays the same, and what needs improvement.  It involves offering suggestions for that improvement and never includes ignorant statements (ex: It just wasn't good).   More importantly though is the science behind critiquing.  When someone starts to critique another musician they become the teacher.  They need to think deeper and try harder to notice the details that go into the music.  A student can learn more while critiquing for 10 minutes than they learn in a week of practicing (although practicing is essential)!

Benefit 5 - Self Reflection Accelerates Learning

When students are spending this time critiquing they learn to reflect on what works well for them.  Also, after seeing a suggestion work on another learner, they may try it next time they practice.  A reflective musician puts more thought into their practicing and lessons.  They learn music at an accelerated speed.

Benefit 6 - Other Learners Inspire Growth

All musicians go through a phase where they do not feel much like practicing but hearing what practicing does for another person often inspires individuals to practice harder.  And for those who think they will never be good, seeing the improvement that another person makes from week to week is a strong motivator.  Plus, it can be difficult to only hear people who have mastered their craft.

Benefit 7 - Making Friends with Similar Interests and Positive Influences

Especially with all of the technology around, how easy it is to watch a favorite show, how easy it is to play 6 different games in a night, and how easy it is to be distracted from practicing it is hard to find friends for yourself or for your children who are a good influence on practicing.

For children, staying the night at a friend's house may mean they do not have a chance to practice.  But what if that other child plays too?  They may spend time playing together!  Or, that other parent may offer to have both children spend time practicing or that is something you could offer to anyone staying the night!  Children who grow up with a friend who is also a musician learn so much from each other. 

For adult learners it can be hard to find musicians with similar interests that you can create music with.  There are people out there looking for a jam session, looking to form a jazz group, looking to play duets, and way more but finding people in area near your skill level can be very hard.  Plus, as an adult you have so many more distractions from practicing that it can be very hard to make the time.  Spending a little time playing with others, even once a month, helps to give adults a reason to make practicing a priority.

Meeting only once a month for master classes means developing a friendship may take quite some time but the influence of having friends with similar interests makes a huge difference in how much of a priority practicing becomes.

When students participate in master classes they learn so much more than can be covered in private lessons it is hard to understand why so few teachers offer them.  Wouldn't all teachers want to see their students grow so fast?

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