A Masterclass, much as the name suggests, can be broadly defined as a class led by one who possesses mastery in any specific discipline. More commonly practiced within the arts, and on musical subjects in particular, Masterclasses have been a staple learning methodology since 1869. Their invention is attributed to the virtuosic Hungarian pianist, Franz Liszt (1811-1886). Since then, Masterclasses have been held by professionals ranging from experienced instructors to legendary performers, for aspiring pianists all over the world.
Adam Gyorgy is a contemporary example of a world-renowned concert pianist who conducts Masterclasses which are highly in demand, such as the recent one held the day before his concert in Singapore, at the Verve Music & Dance School. The musical insights he shared in his Masterclasses were invaluable for the attendees, and provided artistic stimulation in preparation for his recital.
Considered one of the most effective means of musical development, piano Masterclasses are generally catered to groups of students with prior knowledge of the instrument. During these sessions, piano compositions will be performed, sometimes by the students themselves. The teacher will then provide constructive comments on the performances, thereby creating priceless learning opportunities for both performer and observer; Students will receive individualised and pertinent advice towards refining their artistry, while the audience is able to learn vicariously and experience how a master’s guidance improves their performance.
In Masterclasses, each demonstration is typically shorter than in a normal class or concert, and feedback and interaction will focus on only salient aspects of each performance. In this way, Masterclasses become a distilled version of normal classes, providing concentrated lessons over broader scope, and giving participants a well-rounded understanding of what goes into becoming a skilful pianist.
Masterclasses are not only about the technical aspects of piano playing, but also about the overall experience of music making (and taking). Aside from becoming privy to a wealth of beneficial information, the cherry on the cake is the close engagement with the eminent expert, as the personal connections made in such intimate sessions usually serves as great inspiration for attendees. If the students are required to perform publicly during the session, despite the pressure, such students often report significantly increased motivation and confidence after the unforgettable experience obtained from the valuable performing exposure.
These potentially life-changing events offer participants the chance to acquire a prescient awareness of the music business, with ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpses into piano performing. They are able to watch first-hand how these legends explore the details of piano repertoires, and absorb knowledge which they can later apply to their own repertoires. For all musicians, Masterclasses are a wonderful resource of fresh perspectives for approaching musical interpretation and technique.
In addition, the classroom-style setup for Masterclasses frequently creates an environment conducive for fellow musicians to find and understand their place within their music circles. Masterclasses thus serve as a springboard for pianists at all levels to access a professional community of practice, form their own identities and eventually contribute to the larger community.
As the content of a Masterclass will always vary depending on the performers, audience, and of course the specialist, one of the most exceptional features of Masterclasses is the distinctiveness of each one. Every Masterclass is a unique event. Be sure not to miss a Masterclass if you can help it!