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Music Matters: Master-Class


By Elaine Guerrazzi | June 17, 2019

A couple of years ago through my work with a local nonprofit we hosted a master-class program (individual lessons with an expert in a group setting) for guitar students.  The mission of this nonprofit included performance, education, and wellness.  During the planning and preparation for the master-class program we considered the idea of how this program addresses the mission. Of particular interest was the connection between the impact of performance on education and wellness.  

Wagner (2005) supports the idea that a master-class offers a great learning opportunity for the students by stating that a “fresh perspective from a professional musician offers a priceless commodity and an unforgettable experience for students” (pg. 42).  

Music is a more potent instrument than any other form of education. Plato

Artists and audience can benefit from concentrated public coaching. A master-class program provides a guided view of learning and appreciating music.  We can learn a lot from a master class – how to practice, how to play, how to perform, how to listen, and how to make sense of a piece of music (Haddon, 2014, 2017; Hanken 2010, 2015; Long 2012). One master interviewed by Hanken (2010) when asked about accommodating students and listeners stated, “It is a master class when the teaching benefits the audience about as much as it does the student performing” (pg. 151).

Music is the art of thinking with sounds. Jules Combarieu

To provide a structure for evaluating the student experience of the master-class program the planning group identified a set of program goals aligned with wellness components.  

Spiritual Wellness:  Finding meaning in life events…a master-class can share and expand the knowledge base of students and audience about the internal meaning of the music beyond the notes.  Music playing and listening can establish peace and harmony in your life.   

Enjoyment of Music

Social Wellness:  Building relationships (teacher to student, student to student, teacher to audience, student to audience) enhances the interactive nature of a master-class.  

Sharing Thoughts/Idea with Peers & with Others, Ability to Collaborate with Others

Emotional Wellness:  Performing in a master-class can provide opportunities for performance in a more controlled setting and with a smaller group of similar minded peers which can lead to increased performance confidence.  

Self Esteem, Future Perspective of Self, Self-Worth, Confidence

Intellectual Wellness:  Engaging in a master-class allows students and audience an opportunity to focus on the learning about music, engaging in new ideas on style and structure of playing and interpretation of music from the group and individual perspective.   

Creativity, Decision-Making

Physical Wellness:  Observational feedback provided by the teacher, peers, and even audience members aids awareness of practice and performing techniques.  

Skill Development

Students provided feedback through the use of a retrospective pre-post method.  Lang & Savageau (2017) give a brief description of the method.

Instead of collecting data at the beginning and end of the program, the retrospective pre-post approach measures students’ learning only at the end by asking them to self-assess what they know from two viewpoints – BEFORE and AFTER participating. The responses can be compared to show changes in knowledge/skills.  

Below is a portion of the instrument developed.  It is possible to change the structure for your own use.  For example, to:

**evaluate a program you are developing
**provide insight and reflection on your own learning as a music student
**expand the learning of your students
**provide direction for your teaching

I wanted to share my experience from working with the nonprofit master-class program to introduce the idea of how our daily activities and hobbies can overlap with personal development and wellness.  Music can be more than playing an instrument.  We learn lessons through the experience of learning, playing, and listening to others.  

Think about hobbies or activities you take part in…how might this experience contribute to your learning and development.

Next week I will explore the idea that athletes and musicians are similar. 

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