What A Singer Needs to Know: A Masterclass

A master-teacher is usually someone with special expertise or performing experience, who offers a perspective and ideas beyond those at your regular lessons and coachings. While a masterclass might seem on the surface to be like a voice lesson, it is meant to be observed by other students and onlookers, with the presumed intention that they will learn something from the master-teacher’s interactions with the students; it is a mixture of lesson, class, and performance. Usually the teacher works with several different students for a short time (15-30 minutes each); the student prepares one piece and it is addressed in detail.

Preparation: Repertoire
Choose a piece that you know well, or perhaps should I say really well. In order to be able to react and try out what the master-teacher suggests, you must be very secure about the piece. You should know every marking on the page and what it means, you should have the piece securely memorized and know the meaning of the text as well as something about the composer, the style, and the larger work if the piece is part of one. If you have technical difficulty with a high note or a run, that isn’t the end of the world; the teacher may well be able to help you with it. But if you are struggling to get through every phrase, or you have not securely memorized the piece, you won’t get the most out of the experience.

Preparation: Rehearsal
Give your pianist a CLEAN copy of the music, and REHEARSE. There should be no questions between you about tempo, changes in tempo, where you are breathing, etc. etc.. The pianist should be able to support you in every way, again so that you can try things out on the spot.

On the Day of the Masterclass
Come to the venue WARMED UP and ready to sing.

Wear clothing that is a little on the dressy side but conservative, and that will not distract from your singing. Dress as if your teacher or your school were to take publicity photos. Dress more for an audition than a performance. Gentlemen, wear a dress shirt, dress pants, and dress shoes, jacket and tie recommended. Ladies, wear a dress or skirt and dressy blouse, hose and dress shoes with closed toes; hemlines should fall at the knee or below; heels should be no more than 1.5-2;” necklines should not be low-cut, bare torsos should not be showing and the clothing should have no logos. Hair should be off the face, so your expressions will show; daytime makeup is appropriate.

Provide a clean copy of the music for the master-teacher. This is a courtesy, but it is often greatly appreciated.

When it is your turn to sing, try to get everything you can from the moment. Attempt everything the master-teacher suggests, even if it is very different from your teacher’s or coach’s advice. Be respectful. Give it your best. You may want to have a friend or colleague record your segment, so you can review it later.

Thank the master-teacher for their time and expertise and thank your accompanist. You may not use everything that was suggested, but these ideas will certainly bring you to a broader perspective about your interpretation.

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