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A Master What?

Mezzo-Soprano Annamarie Popescu conducting QSCM's Vocal Master Class 2016

QSCM happily announces a Master Class for local students of piano and strings. Petya Stavreva and Amahl Arunlanandam have kindly agreed to conduct master classes for local piano and string students as part of QSCM's Between Friends weekend. "Between Friends, Two Oaks Entwined" celebrates friendship between musicians and music lovers through sharing beautiful playing. But how do musicians get to be good enough to make the playing a pleasure for all? Practice Practice Practice - Right? Well, yes. Sort of . The thing is, first you have to get it right! And to get it right, you have to learn how. That's where instruction comes into the play. The Quinte region has many excellent teachers who are hard at work training our musical youth and interested adults in the art of playing an instrument. The weekly lesson coupled with diligent practice is the foundation of all progress and development as a musician. Without this commitment Master Classes would be a waste of time.

Why? What exactly is a Master Class and how is it different from the weekly private lesson?

First a Master Class is either public, or at least, involves more than one student. It is, as the word suggests, a "class", implying group instruction. So participants need to be ready to present their work in front of an audience. Secondly, because classmates are involved, participants are playing for peers, fellow students, other teachers, an audience that is knowledgeable about what they are doing, which can be both encouraging and intimidating. This is excellent experience for the upcoming performer who has to learn how to handle nerves under any circumstances!

Second, a Master Class involves, well, a "Master." That is, usually classes are presented by professionals with advanced credentials in the field and can make some claim to experience and achievement that is different than the training the student is already achieving. This does not mean they are better teachers, but they do offer something different.

What does one teacher offer that is different from another? The professional bios of Amahl Arulanandam and Petya Stavreva can be seen on QSCM's web site when you point to the events tab and move into the drop down menu below. In addition to a wide and varied performance experience they both hold advanced degrees in cello and piano performance, respectively (that's the Masters of Music Degree) and both are holders of Artists Diplomas, the highest distinction possible from the prestigious Glen Gould School in Toronto. In addition Petya is now pursuing a Doctorate in piano performance.

By consulting the professional bio you will also be able to see the masters under whom an artist has studied, the lineage of their learning, which, as music is an apprencticeship art, matters. Researching the background and experience of the guest artist is an important step when deciding about becoming involved in a Master Class. You want to find out what they have done that is different from what you've already experienced when deciding to attend. You may discover that they have studied with a great artist whose performance practice you admire, and you want to learn more about how to achieve that. You may see that they have a stage experience that gives them insight into styles of performance that are exciting and innovative and you want to learn how you might incorporate that into your own presentation. You may see that they have become expert practitioners with regard to a particular technical aspect of playing that troubles you in your own playing, or done some interesting research in an area of musicology that is important to you. Or you may just have been told by your own teacher, you need to experience different types of instruction and more teachers! All of these reasons and more are why advanced master classes make up a large part of the curriculum for professional school and university performance program students often featuring visiting artists from concert halls and world class orchestras as well as other schools to give the students a well rounded study experience.

Whatever the attraction, there are two things to notice about Master Classes. One is that they are given by people who have something to offer that is different from what you are getting in weekly lesson. The second is that all involved will engage in discussion about the playing. This conversation takes place not only with the Master Class Guest Artist, but also your peers, and in the case of an open class such as QSCM offers, auditors who include the general public.

Enter the public, or "What is an Auditor?" An auditor to a Master Class is someone who chooses to come an listen with no expectation of taking an active part as a performer. This offers the opportunity for musicians to learn without the pressure of performance. Even more interesting though is the chance for anyone of the general public, someone who isn't currently practicing an instrument or has never played at all, to spend time listening and watching as musicians learn from musicians. Music is an apprenticeship art: you simply cannot become a first-class musician without lessons from another musicians. Attending a Master Class as auditor gives anyone and everyone the opportunity to see the creative process of learning and making music up close, and personal. More than watching an artist paint a portrait, attending a master class allows you to hear and see exactly what a musician must do in order to produce the desired sound, create the appropriate effect and how they need to think about the music they are preparing to share , in finished format, with all.

The photo above shows mezzo-soprano Annamaria Popescu working with a young singer in QSCM's 2016 Art of Song Master Class. All who attended agreed: it was a singularly enlightening event for participants and auditors alike. Please join Amahl and Petya on Friday, April 26th for Master Classes in Strings (St. John's Anglican) and piano (St. Paul's United) from 5 to 7 p.m. Admission for auditors is free! Do come out. You won't be disappointed!

Check it out: More information and applications for the class are available here:

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