The Power of the Masterclass

A masterclass is kind of a weird concept - 4 or 5 students take turns taking a mini-lesson... in front of an audience... taught by a celebrity. And that's exactly what's happening at NCMS next Thursday. Keeping reading to hear more about our guest of honor, why you definitely want to go to this masterclass, and tips for those attending the class.

Thursday, November 9th, 5:30-6:45 PM we are going to have (to put it in laymen's term) a super famous opera star teach an All State prep class for a few of our students! If you've seen the flyers everywhere it's because we're very excited! This is such a rare opportunity for students at the high school level in a town without it's own opera. If you can make it, I promise it will be worth it. As a matter of fact, here are a few reason why it will be worth it.

First, just read this excerpt from Cristine Brewer's bio and I think you'll start to understand why this is a special occasion.

Grammy Award-winning American soprano Christine Brewer’s appearances in opera, concert, and recital are marked by her own unique timbre, at once warm and brilliant, combined with a vibrant personality and emotional honesty reminiscent of the great sopranos of the past. Named one of the top 20 sopranos of all time (BBC Music), her range, golden tone, boundless power, and control make her a favorite of the stage and a highly sought-after recording artist, one who is “in her prime and sounding glorious” (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times).
Christine Brewer sings "When I am laid in earth" from Dido & Aeneas by henry Purcell Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus Robert Shaw, conductor 1994

There are also plenty of reasons to attend to a masterclass in general.

  1. You get to experience the personality of a true artist. I think this reason is the most important and underrated. A musician's personality plays a big part in how they interpret music. Getting to experience a musician as an actual person instead of just a sound makes a big difference in being able to understand their work (and it's usually a lot of fun too).
  2. You get to play teacher. Not everyone wants to grow up to be a music teacher, but observing how others teach is very helpful in your own teaching (professional or not) and your own learning. Think about how you would critique the performing student, and see if the guest's comments match your own.
  3. You get to be the proxy student. Sometimes exactly what your education needs is hearing someone else be corrected on the exact same problem you have. Sometimes you just need to hear something a certain way, or even hear it by someone other than your teacher. Sometimes, you get to hear a totally different perspective on a favorite piece or even something you're currently working on.

Finally, if you're attending or performing in the masterclass, here are some tips.

  1. For performers. I keep saying "performing students" for a reason. This is closer to a lesson, but you will be on stage playing or singing for people. Consider it a performance (as you should really do for any lesson) and I promise you will be happier with the outcome. Practice it like a performance, AKA in front of other people, after you go for a run, anything to get your adrenaline pumping and your nerves make you question your abilities ;)
  2. For audience students. To pick apart nomenclature again, it's called a masterclass, meaning treat it like a class. Bring paper and something to write with. If you know what's going to be performed (bonus tip: you do, it's Vittoria, mio core! by Giacomo Carissimi) bring the sheet music so you can make notes right on it. If you're considering All State one year, this is an excellent introduction.
  3.  For performers. Make sure you know your music inside and out. This doesn't just mean intonation, this means composer, year of composition, context of composition, form of composition, and what every marking means. You don't want to be standing in front of Mark Nuccio and not know what sans diminuendo means. Trust me, I know from experience...
  4. For audience students. If the music being discussed is way outside of your ability, don't be afraid to focus more on big picture things. If you've never heard the piece before, it's okay that you don't understand why the performing students should add a little more emphasis on one note, but do take note on comments about things like tone, articulation, etc. that applies to all music.

Do you have any questions I didn't cover? Have a question about this class that it doesn't make sense to ask your teacher? Comment below or post on Facebook and I would be happy to answer!

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Ashley Wright

Ashley has a breadth of experience in administration, music, and music management. She currently works as the Office Registrar at the Nashua Community Music School and manages the New England Chamber Players and Barbershop Ladies of Tallahassee (where she was a founding member). Ashley designed and implemented both the NECP and BLT websites, as well as designed the BLT logo. She was formerly an usher and stage crew member at the Florida State University Ruby Diamond Auditorium, and a resident assistant and office assistant at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute.

Ashley has played with the Nevers’ Second Regiment Band, the Southern New Hampshire University Wind Symphony, and she attended the Belgian Clarinet Academy last summer. She recently graduated with a BA in Music from Florida State University as a clarinet major, where she studied with Dr. Deborah Bish. For other musical accomplishments: last year, Ashley composed a film score that was recorded by the Florida State University Philharmonia Orchestra and played tenor saxophone and sung backup vocals in the FSU Ruby Diamond Auditorium for the FSU Blues Band with Charles Atkins.

She received her first bachelor's degree in physics (with a music minor) from Boston University. She worked as an engineer for two years in Quality Assurance and Software before returning to school for her music degree, and she spent last summer as a software intern. She has a lot of experience developing independent Python tools, especially for data processing.