Master classes are common teaching forums throughout all stages of music education. The tradition of bringing the world’s best musicians to Oberlin to lead master classes is particularly rich.
Each year, Oberlin Conservatory presents dozens of master classes covering a comprehensive variety of instruments and genres. Every class is distinct and influenced by the personality of the expert giving it. While master classes are of obvious interest to specific musicians aligning with the master teacher’s expertise, sessions are open to all students and the public.
Master classes typically involve three or four student performers selected in advance to individually perform a prepared piece before an audience and the master teacher. The teacher leads the student in a concentrated public coaching, allowing the student to try new approaches, often with audible results.
Masters themselves have generally achieved significant success. Those enjoying a vibrant performance career also may be distinguished pedagogues; others with less teaching experience can offer invaluable insight into the life of a performing artist, as well as a great model to emulate onstage.
Since these coaching sessions are much shorter than an actual lesson, master teachers focus on only one or two very specific aspects of each performance. A master class creates conditions where breakthroughs can happen, and when they do it’s exciting for everyone—the student, the audience, and, of course, the teacher.
For audiences, these classes are informative and inspiring. The master often engages the audience by explaining things they may know little about—the intricacies of that particular instrument or voice, often bringing context to the repertoire. Students also bring different ideas and issues to the stage and, combined with the teacher, help create an experience in which the audience can share.
In recent years, Oberlin has featured master classes by such extraordinary performers as Leon Fleisher, Christian Tetzlaff, Eric Owens, Terence Blanchard, Thomas Stacy, Anthony McGill, Billy Childs, Steven Isserlis, John Clayton, Davitt Moroney, Tessa Lark, William Naboré, the Punch Brothers, and the Calder Quartet. The conservatory welcomes opera great Marilyn Horne each year for a weeklong residency and master classes made possible by philanthropist Stephen Rubin.
Want to observe a master class? Refer to the Oberlin College events calendar for the next opportunity.