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#2073910 - 04/30/13 03:02 AM Any experience with master classes or group instruction?
AaronD Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/28/13
Posts: 10
Loc: New Jersey
Hi everyone,

I'm new to this forum and pretty new to teaching piano (about a year and a half). I've been reading around here a bit, and I'm excited to learn from all of you!

I'm wondering if any of you have experience with hosting master classes or other types of group instruction for your own studio. Not like basic piano class, but focused more on musicality or technical aspects of playing.

I teach about 25 students at a local music store, and was thinking about taking my top 6 or 7 students and having an extra group session maybe once every couple of months. I'd have students play pieces for each other, works in progress would be welcome, and I'd give a bit of instruction in front of the group. Maybe each session would have a focus, like tone, or expression, or....sight reading. Basically we would develop a bit of community, share our progress, have some fun in a low-pressure setting, and I could address some things I not always able to squeeze into their individual lessons.

Any thoughts/experiences with something like this?

Thanks!
Aaron
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BM Piano/Church music ministries
Piano Teacher

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#2073998 - 04/30/13 08:30 AM Re: Any experience with master classes or group instruction? [Re: AaronD]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA


Welcome to the forum, Aaron. Yes, your intuition is correct. Many of us do precisely what you're proposing.

Although I teach from a home studio, there is no reason you cannot emulate what I and several others do (with variations). Which is, once a month, hold a group performance session. Actually, it is much more than that. We begin with students receiving their monthly issue of Piano Explorer magazine, where we learn about the composer of the month, and various foundational aspects of music. In the Fall and Winter months, I add a component of music theory, and the second half of the 90 minute session is performance by students, where not only do we perform for each other, but we learn various phases of performing, not just playing notes.

As for masterclasses, our chapter of MTNA hosts master classes for students through out the year, so there is no reason for me to duplicate that effort. When students need and are prepared for a masterclass, we sign them up.

Best wishes on your teaching career.

John
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2074041 - 04/30/13 09:32 AM Re: Any experience with master classes or group instruction? [Re: AaronD]
pianopaws Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/18/13
Posts: 66
Loc: North Carolina, USA
I host a monthly group class in my studio. We play music games, listen to works by famous composers, practice our performance skills, and do duets and trios. It is alot of fun and reinforces what we are doing in our lessons.

If you decide to go with a "masterclass" format, be careful that the students are comfortable with the idea of being critiqued in front of the rest of the class. For students who have never done a masterclass and don't know what it is like, this can be stressful. I might save that format for older students who have music at or near performance level prepared.

Good luck and have fun!
_________________________
M.M., Piano performance and pedagogy
Member, MTNA and NCMTA

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#2074283 - 04/30/13 03:10 PM Re: Any experience with master classes or group instruction? [Re: AaronD]
pianoSD Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 57
Loc: San Diego, CA
I only have a few older students (and 2 of them I teach online), but I recently did a group session like this with my 4 local adult students in San Diego (I don't think this is as effective with children).

To be honest, it was the most fun I have had teaching. The students, whom had never met each other before, hit it off immediately. Maybe it was by chance, or maybe because they had something in common, but it couldn't have worked out any better on a social level.

Musically, it was just as fun. I had them each play a piece that we had worked on in our lessons as well as piece of their own choosing. The discussion, thoughtful critique, enjoyment, and even laughs between these pieces was incredible.

I gave some group instruction at the end of the session, but since I had so much fun, I refused to charge them for the session. I can't wait to do it again.
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My Piano Lessons - Schedule Me Online!

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#2074305 - 04/30/13 03:30 PM Re: Any experience with master classes or group instruction? [Re: AaronD]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1242
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Aaron, it's a fine idea. By all means give it a try, and you can shape these classes as you wish, and learn as you go. If the classes are indeed successful, do them more often than you are contemplating. Once a month, perhaps, or every 6 weeks.

PianoSD has raised the important issue of whether you would charge for such classes. If you teach through a music store, the store may dictate this issue for you. There are good reasons to charge, given your time and preparation, but it might be hard to convince students or parents to pay an extra fee.

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#2074306 - 04/30/13 03:31 PM Re: Any experience with master classes or group instruction? [Re: AaronD]
kck Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 261
My kid does this monthly in a class of about a dozen kids. It's in a master class format and the kids in the group can play from like Fur Elise level to concerto level (ages 10-17). It has been extremely valuable!


Edited by kck (04/30/13 03:31 PM)
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Amateur musician, piano and violin parent

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#2074442 - 04/30/13 06:43 PM Re: Any experience with master classes or group instruction? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
PianoSD has raised the important issue of whether you would charge for such classes. If you teach through a music store, the store may dictate this issue for you. There are good reasons to charge, given your time and preparation, but it might be hard to convince students or parents to pay an extra fee.

FWIW, my group lessons are included in the annual tuition, thus turning it into a use it or lose it scenario.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2074585 - 04/30/13 11:17 PM Re: Any experience with master classes or group instruction? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
AaronD Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/28/13
Posts: 10
Loc: New Jersey
Thanks for the welcome and all your insight so far! It sounds like it can be a very meaningful investment of time. PianoSD, I'd like to think I'd have as much fun as you did with it!

The music store where I teach actually only distributes new students to us, standardizes tuition, and provides rooms for teaching (we pay some rent). All other interaction, including payment is directly between student and teacher. They also have a spacious room for recitals that I could use with no extra charge. I'm undecided about charging extra, but I may just use a brother/sister's back to back time slot so I'd be getting paid for their lessons anyway...

I can see how it may be a problem for younger or more sensitive students. So I'd have to be selective on who I'd invite. I'm a little bit concerned about the difference in level for some of the ones I'd like to invite - maybe Late Elementary/Early Intermediate to Early Advanced. Seems like a big gap, but I don't currently have a lot of students at the later levels, and these would be students who are progressing and excited about the piano. If we did any musical activities or games, I'd probably give them stuff based on their level and lot of encouragement. What do you guys think about that level gap? Is that too big?
_________________________
BM Piano/Church music ministries
Piano Teacher

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#2074669 - 05/01/13 01:19 AM Re: Any experience with master classes or group instruction? [Re: AaronD]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1242
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Hard to know about the level gap. If you keep this away from piano performance, and more steered toward musical games, that might be better. It's scary to be around much more advanced players, though it can also be invigorating.

You could pair up kids of differing levels, so that everybody has a buddy.

My advice is simply to try a session and see how it goes. You can make changes each subsequent session, especially if each one is considered a one-off, special event.

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#2074751 - 05/01/13 05:22 AM Re: Any experience with master classes or group instruction? [Re: AaronD]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5271
Loc: Orange County, CA
Definitely group the kids by level.

I've held "dressed rehearsals" before exams and festivals, and I tried various formats. Definitely go with a pre-planned set of questions and ask each student to do the following:

1) announce the title, composer (and maybe the historical period if you're doing a theme)

2) say how long he/she has worked on the piece, is it a work-in-progress, or is it nearly polished?

3) state one or two specific goals that the student wishes to accomplish in this particular performance.

Then, after the performance, go around the room and ask for feedback.

Another way to get feedback is to have a pre-made form for each student, and list several things to listen for (tone, rhythm, dynamics, phrasing, etc.) that people can generally tell even without knowing the music. And have the kids grade each other anonymously. The writing method also helps the shy kids who don't want to talk in front of other people.

In my experience, older kids (high school) tend to give better feedback, as their listening skills are better honed.
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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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