Monday, June 2, 2014

A Masterclass? What is it and why should I (or my child) sing in one?

A Masterclass?  What is it and why should I (or my child) sing in one?  This is a very common question I receive as a voice teacher.  A Masterclass is exactly what it sounds like, a chance to work in a class (group) environment with a master (teacher) of the subject.

Many national conventions, Voice Foundation, National Association of Teachers of Singing, Music Educators National Convention, run masterclasses for those attending.  Some are large and for the whole convention, some are small and individualized focusing on one specific topic.  Teachers and singers can visit the masterclasses of the most interest to them in workshops made of all masterclasses such as are held at the Voice Foundation Convention.  Colleges often offer their music majors masterclasses or studio performance class on a weekly basis.  It unifies the studio, gives them a chance (and responsibility) to perform often and is an essential part to the performing experience.

In the independent voice studio, it is difficult to schedule a masterclass, but very important to the process of developing performing singers.  In a singing masterclass, students are given an opportunity to perform in front of others as if it is a real performance.  Then the teacher (or master) works with each individual on the song that was presented, teaching them in front of the other students or attendees. It is a great opportunity for all.  I try to plan a few each year in my studio.

The singer gets extra performance practice and more time with their current teacher (or visiting clinician).  They can work on getting over the nerves of singing in front of others in a comfortable environment.  They get practice emoting the text to an actual audience instead of to themselves in the mirror and experience what nerves may do to them.  The singer also gets practice at following direction of the new clinician and trying something out or work with their voice teacher in a different environment.

The audience gets to learn from watching the teacher instruct others.  They may learn something that the teacher has yet to say to them or hear it in a different way that clicks! They get to hear the difference in another singer's sound when the student follows instructions regarding interpretation or breath support. Or see the difference in a singer's appearance when communicating the text (and the change in the sound).   It is an educational opportunity in which much can be accomplished and learned!  Plus everyone gets to know one another a little more!

The teacher gets to teach many students at once and see how different students react to different instruction.  It also gives the teacher a chance to address specific ideas regarding singing that cannot be addressed in a regular lesson.  For example, I will often add a yoga component or acting games to a masterclass to show students how they can positively impact singing and performing.

I have recently begun asking my students what their favorite part of a masterclass is.  I have heard a variety of responses from "I learned I don't really have to be nervous to sing in front of others, if I just focus on what I am really saying in the song" to "Yoga has such an impact on freeing up my voice" to "I really enjoyed hearing the variety of repertoire sung by others."  Although the responses vary, one thought is ringing true:  Masterclasses are fun and you can learn a lot from singing in and attending them.  Read more about masterclasses at Susan Anders Brizick Voice Studio Happenings

The next time the opportunity presents itself, I encourage you to sing (or go to) that masterclass! You never know what you might learn.  Let me know some of your experiences with masterclasses and why you like them!

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