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Master Classes

Master classes are ubiquitous in Conservatoires. They are also increasingly used in other contexts - a dynamic form of knowledge exchange. So how do master classes work? What kinds of knowledge are involved?How does learning take place, between master and students, master and audience, students and audience?

In conservatoires, different formats for master classes are also developing, for example focusing on specialist techniques like audition skills, or including private follow-up sessions for the performers with the master. What potential and challenges do these raise? And how can we curate master classes effectively, supporting students to make the most of the diverse offer?

Responding to these questions, we have undertaken a piece of research at the Guildhall School, funded by Palatine, to provide an initial mapping of master class types and the learning they promote. I have been involved in this research along with Dr. Marion Long, Prof Susan Hallam and Dr. Andrea Creech from the Institute of Education, London University. The final report has just been published. It suggests that master classes vary enormously in their focus, from deep artistic engagement and exploration of repertoire to aspects of performance or professional approach more clearly directed at making the transition to a career in the professional world. And these different types of master class inevitably promote quite different dimensions of learning. Not surprisingly then, the report also indicates the importance of matching student level and stage of development appropriately to the approach of particular masters, and the potential for giving explicit support to students who are audience members so that they can make the most of them.


In a nutshell

So why should you be interested in Learning in and through the Performing Arts?

The collaborative processes of the performing arts open a pandora's box of possibilities for artistic, personal and organizational development. They are subtle and multi-layered, embodied practices that can yield much more than what individuals bring to them, creatively and in terms of human exchange. My work is about continuing to develop these processes for the twenty-first century, so that artists can adapt to their changing contexts and enable their work to take root as creative entrepreneurs, and so that the processes of the arts can be shared and enhanced through exchange with other disciplines and across cultural contexts.