Over the past year, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of online music workshops and masterclasses, but what about these events ‘in person’? In this guest post, Aleah Fitzwater shares her experiences of attending a flute workshop and the benefits that offered to her.
It has been a very long time since I have attended a flute workshop. I had almost forgotten just how beneficial they were, until…
I was hanging up a CD shelf inside of my new apartment. As I riffled through countless albums, from Matchbox Twenty to Fall Out Boy to Mozart, I found a hidden treasure: a recording of a workshop I had done with flutist William Bennett (or, to those who know him well, Wibb).
Instruction from a New Angle
Whether you’re studying hard for your bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate, let’s be honest, you have the same private teacher, day in, day out. You get to know what they eat for breakfast and their favorite type of tea. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; there are many great benefits to having strong rapport with your professor.
That being said, sometimes, we get a little too used to them. Prepare yourself for a silly analogy: much as a child gets used to their parents’ voices, we grow numb to our professor’s instructions….until we hear it repeated, in a different way.
My flute professor had told me time and time again that I was playing the Moyse excerpt that I was preparing for Wibb, too loudly. But the thing is, I couldn’t hear him. I couldn’t hear him, until William Bennett stood on a chair in the middle of my college recital hall, conducting the excerpt. He seemed to have far more energy than I did, and I was only 20 at the time!
When I saw Wibb stand up on that chair, all of my professor’s recommendations about dynamics rang through, with the sharp tone of a very different bell. Sometimes, all it takes is hearing the same thing said a different way, from someone else.
It Tests Your Control on Stage
Attending a flute workshop with a reputable, or even famous flutist, will test the control of your performance anxiety. While solo works can be nerve-wracking, You know that less than 5% of the hall’s audience are probably pros at your particular instrument.
When you go to a masterclass or workshop, the pro is staring you in the face. It’s just you, and them. When you are performing solo, there’s no one to hold their hand out in front of you and say “Aht, aht, aht, stop it, you’re using that poor technique again!”.
Attending a workshop is the ultimate test of your ability to take constructive criticism in your stride, and to control your performance anxiety.
When you attend a workshop, not only do you meet the primary instructor; you get a chance to network with all the other musicians in attendance as well. Oftentimes, I see other flutists making the mistake of pegging us against one other. A sea of ‘pick-me’s’. But you can take this and turn it around, and look at it another way.
We are all a group of like-minded individuals coming together to learn different things from the same phenomenal instructor.
My Wibb workshop was full of examples of jealous anti-networking. Two rival colleges were in attendance. I remember that Wibb had pulled me back onto the stage for a second Moyse excerpt, and other soloists began to boo and chatter; some of their accompanists started to leave. If I learned anything, it’s that impatience has no place in masterclasses, and you can’t put a clock on music.
Workshop Benefits have been Proven by Science
A study completed within the past year has proven that workshops are beneficial to younger pupils, too (Ward 2021). Seven students (from the ages of 7-12) worked with professional musicians. The researchers gauged the happiness and optimism of the pupils, before and after the workshops. This was called the ‘In2 Music Project’, and it went on for seven weeks.
According to the study, the students experienced multiple benefits from the workshops.
‘These positive experiences include, but are not limited to, “happiness”; “general life satisfaction”; “mood regulation”, and “a sense of mastery of the world” underpinned by “self-esteem, optimism and perceived control”’p.2
This was all because of one, seven-week brass workshop. If music masterclasses can do this for students, they must benefit adults, too.
In fact, workshops have been proven to increase the activity in the brains of adults, as well as reduce stress. Combine this with improving your skills as a professional player and networking, and you have quite the recipe for success!
In conclusion, music workshops are well worth the time, money, and long drives. Go ahead and book one, and make a trip out of it! In my experience, they are one of the best educational tools out there.
Aleah Fitzwater is a flutist, arranger, artist and music blogger. She creates blogs on how to digitize classical music for https://scan-score.com/, as well as blogs for https://yamahaeducatorsuite.com/.
When she’s not writing about or playing music, she’s running her two small art businesses, arranging alternative songs for flute (https://aleahfitzwater.com/) or playing with her Yorkie, Presto.
Ward, S., James, S., James, K., Brown, C., Kokotsaki, D. & Wigham, J. (2021). ‘The benefits of music workshop participation for pupils’ wellbeing and social capital: the In2 music project evaluation’, in Arts Education Policy Review, DOI: 10.1080/10632913.2021.1903640
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