What is a masterclass?
The Desautels Faculty of Music at the U of M has been hosting Masters of Jazz Masterclasses for the past few years. The idea is to grab some of the world-renowned artists performing here and give them a chance to share some of their experiences, their artistic concepts, their routines, and their philosophy with curious learners.
Often these artists will perform a bit to demonstrate their ideas about technique or expression. Other times they will share anecdotes about life on the road or in the practice room—stories about how they got where they are, at the apex of the jazz world. They invite questions, and their answers build bridges that help everybody in the room imagine how to move forward in a productive way.
Lots of time, our featured artists will invite a group of students up to play, then give them constructive feedback and helpful suggestions. They ask challenging questions that help students find their own centre of gravity, and often you can hear breakthroughs in the playing right there on the spot. These mini-coaching sessions can have a tremendous impact on young musicians, and they’re really useful to us as well—they give us a chance to learn where we’re at as a jazz community, and to get their take on how we’re doing.
Who can attend? Everybody is welcome, whether you’re a jazz tourist, a budding jazz artist, or a jazz master. I myself like to go because I always learn something I didn’t know, and I learn ways of teaching that I hadn’t thought of. I hear what the students are thinking about too—often they’ll feel more comfortable asking certain questions to a visiting artist than one of their teachers.
We have a terrific line-up as the fall term starts—saxophonist Jimmy Greene, drummer Greg Hutchison, pianist Mike LeDonne, and bassist Omer Avital—and we have a few lined up for the winter too. Come on down to the U of M campus and soak up the vibes!