Learn About Master Classes

Master Class Students

What is a music master class?

A master class is a class in which a group of students watch and listen as each student performs a prepared piece or movement of a piece (or sometimes a study or orchestral excerpt depending on the instrument) for a guest master teacher.

What topics are generally covered in a master class?

Because master classes are group classes, generally the teacher gives advice and suggestions to the individual student but also addresses all of the students and gives general advice to the entire group. The advice can be about the particular piece of music or about a topic that is related to the performer’s instrument. For example they could talk about orchestral auditions, or reeds or breathing.

Why take a master class?

Master classes provide a very supportive, inspiring and encouraging learning environment. They are important to the development of senior music students because they allow students to meet and learn from masters of their instrument, usually well-established teachers or performers. They also learn from watching other students at a similar skill level perform and hearing teacher feedback on each performance.

How should a student prepare for a master class?

Master class students are expected to have the piece that they will perform already prepared up to a high performance level. The master teacher gives advice on fine details: the interpretation of the piece, dynamics, tone, phrasing etc.; however, basics such as notes, rhythm and pitch should already be perfected.

How are Place des Arts’ master classes run?

Most Place des Arts master classes are divided up into blocks of students (3-4 students/block). Each student is scheduled with their own performance time and is expected to stay and listen to all of the students in their block. Depending on their skill level, students will play and be coached anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. Most students play for 30 minutes. The master class students’ regular teachers also attend the class to take notes on things to work on during their private lessons.

Watch a master class

Take a look at these three videos of master classes. These are very high level (university students and above) but give a sense of the type of format a master class would have.

Malcolm Lowe (Concertmaster of the Boston Symphony) teaching a master class at Tanglewood Music Centre on Orchestra Excerpts for Violin:


Albrecht Mayer (Berlin Philharmonic principal oboists) teaching a master class at Carnegie Hall:


Pianist Stephen Hough teaching a master class at the Royal Academy of Music: