Why Master Classes?

Tia Fuller Master Class

When artist-in-residencies are welcomed into a school, these connections to local artists and community partners are inspiring to our students. Often, these residencies focus on the visual arts. Let’s raise the question to include the other art genres as well. Why not music? How about dance? Master classes in music, dance, or theatre are powerful, but unfortunately rare, opportunities for our youth.

Here are some reasons why we need to consider making master classes a priority for our students, and why it is necessary to increase the number of these opportunities now and in the future.

  1. Master classes are usually smaller groups allowing for more of a one-on-one experience. The teacher-to-student ratio is often low. Sometimes, students are able to dance or play for the professional artist, and the feedback that they receive stays with them forever as a dancer, musician, etc. The instructor is able to provide, “I see you, I hear you, here is what you are doing right and here is what you can improve on,” type of feedback.
  2. The creative process is touched upon. Digging into an artist’s everyday life allows students to be gentler on themselves when that sometimes negative inner voice comes out to play. There is no need for perfection, but rather the message of “you do you” is instilled in the students.
  3. Practice, practice, practice. A music teacher can try to send the importance of this message over and over until the cows come home, but when a well-known musician shares the need to practice with the master class participants based on his or her personal experience, it often means more and carries more weight. 
  4. In our schools, we often silo jazz from the orchestra and pottery from painting. Yet, when we place a spotlight on those who are living and breathing the life of an artist, master class participants discover that learning all of the arts makes them stronger. Our most recent outreach included a jazz workshop for local high school musicians with Tia Fuller.  Fuller’s life is jazz, yet her experiences as Beyoncé all-female band member are just a sliver of her complete life as a musician and artist. Earlier this winter, when the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia graced our Harris Stage, it was clear that the performers’ dance background made them a stronger puppeteer.
  5. Often, master classes are available to students at no charge. Even when transportation is a challenge, students and parents have the option to car-pool or use Uber/Lyft, cabs, or public transportation.
  6. It takes just one meeting with a professional musician, dancer, actor, or artist for the path of a child’s life to change. He/she wakes up each day with a new life goal and an interest that brings him/her happiness, wellness, and the inspiration to be themselves.

Christina Ratatori
Wilson Center Education Director