How to practice?
Short notes by Roberto Prosseda

14. Facing a master class

Summer is the time for master classes, that is to say specialized music courses lasting several days, in which students have the chance to work with a teacher other than their own, who in three or four lessons can give advice and offer his/her opinion about their interpretations. In my previous life as a student I attended dozens of master classes, and I still have a vivid memory of some of them, which gave a particular boost to my studies by helping me to discover different ways of viewing music and conceiving an interpretation. It is, then, a very useful occasion, which students can nevertheless confront in many different ways. Today a master class is sometimes wrongly considered as a sort of prolonged audition. Some students enrol not to learn something in particular, but rather to show the teacher their personal qualities, that is to “make themselves seen” and not to open themselves to new ways of approaching the music. Other students, instead, undertake the master class too passively, blindly accepting the teacher's suggestions, which might not always be perfectly appropriate for their way of playing or of conceiving the music. On the basis of my own experience (first as student, then as teacher), I believe that the best way for a student to approach a master class is to see it as an open encounter with different points of view. Obviously, one should take into account that the teacher will propose new ideas, ones that are not always easy to understand or to put into practice immediately. And it is also possible that the impact with such a different way of conceiving music and the relation with the instrument could at first come as a sort of shock, or place in question the student's previous certainties. This too is a typical, usually positive, effect of a master class: it is important for a graduate student, who is embarking on a career as a concert player, not to take anything for granted, and to find their own personal artistic identity thanks also to confrontation and the realization that there is no single, unequivocal way of seeing music and its interpretation. And the stronger their personal ideas are, the more convincing and successful they will be, also in the eyes of those who see things differently.

Roberto Prosseda

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