“I may not have gone where I intended to go,
but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”
~ Douglas Adams ~
I had an incredible opportunity to attend some master classes while in London this past week. We attended a chamber music master class with Gyorgy Pauk at at the Royal Academy of Music and a solo master class with some Guildhall students and Nikolaj Znaider at LSO St. Luke’s. The Utah Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra also played a session with Ian Brown, a respected British conductor and chamber musician. Sharing these events with my students made it all the more meaningful. I think we all came away impressed and enriched, but more importantly, better informed about our own playing and musicianship.
Most evident was that, while impressive playing was at every corner, there was always something more to work on. Just when you think the participants are doing pretty well, the master teacher will point out a new layer of details. Accents, articulations, dynamics, all have multiple layers of possibility. It’s not just loud, it’s a certain kind of loud. It’s not just short, it is an articulation that must define the surrounding notes. All in order to better express the phrase. And once you reach that level, there is yet another deeper, richer layer to discover.
I am convinced that we need to constantly reset our musical assumptions in order to assure that we are achieving and communicating as much as we possibly can. Attending and participating in these types of classes is one way to achieve this. Nikolaj Znaider had a good sentiment that he shared with the students:
“We are all students. I just have been a student for a little longer than you have.”
This is why we must travel to hear music, see concerts and attend master classes. Sometimes we travel across the globe. Other times it’s just a trip across town or a short walk down the hall. The distance doesn’t really matter, but the effort to attend, participate, and learn definitely does . It is commitment to our art and ourselves. Even though we may be jet-lagged by the travel or overwhelmed with our own busyness, the experience informs us about our individual journey. Though we are essentially seeing, hearing, and experiencing the same things that we do at home, making the effort to go somewhere makes it visceral and translates it for our own personal journey. No matter the distance, it may be easy or arduous. But in the end, it promises to point us in the direction we need to look.
Copyright, 2012. Robert Baldwin