Matt Edwards

Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute

Mix it up Monday: How to Really Bomb a Master Class (Advice for the Teacher)

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A few weeks ago I posted Richard Miller’s brilliant advice for the singer. Today I want to share his advice for the master teacher. Enjoy!

  1. Begin by being anecdotal, recalling your own impressive performance career. Recount having been embraced on stage by Bernstein, and what Ormandy said about your artistry; mention how many times you have sung each of your major roles, and in which houses.
  2. Follow this with an account of how you selflessly gave up a major career to devote yourself to teaching.
  3. Sit at a desk or table, just out of range of the singer’s vision, and while smiling and swaying to the music, conduct with your pencil.
  4. Sit in a chair next to the piano and conduct the accompanist. Then spend a large part of the twenty minutes in instructing the pianist as to how the piece should be played.
  5. When working in a large hall, insist that your speaking voice has wonderful projection, and refuse to use a microphone.
  6. Interrupt the singer after the first eight bars.
  7. Convey your suggestions privately to the singer so that the audience members (who have paid a registration fee) cannot hear the comments.
  8. Begin immediately to point out what is wrong and avoid mentioning anything positive about either the voice or the performance.
  9. Claim to teach bel canto.
  10. Make several quite minor suggestions and ask the singer to sing the entire piece over again. (This will fill much of the time if you are at a loss as to what to do).
  11. With a sorrowful shake of the head, mention that the assigned repertoire is totally wrong.
  12. With another shake of the head, mention that the assigned repertoire is totally wrong.
  13. Make constant running comments to the student as he or she is singing.
  14. Sing along with the student, especially if you yourself have sung the aria.
  15. Avoid all technical suggestions for fear of offending the people who invited you.
  16. Tell the singer he or she has no talent and should not continue studying.
  17. Insist on accepting only your tempo, interpretation, embellishments, and cadential figures.
  18. Spend a lot of additional time with the singer you most enjoy; cut short the sessions with the others, particularly if they are not especially gifted.
  19. Keep looking at your watch or the clock on the wall.
  20. As the singer performs, stare intently at a copy of the music with your head buried in it, then lecture the singer on how best to communicate the text to the audience.
  21. Make the same suggestion to everyone, regardless of the individual problem.
  22. Give a mini-lecture of eight to ten minutes about the composer’s intent.
  23. Describe the circumstances under which the poem was created; include details of the poet’s life, especially if they are a bit bizarre.
  24. Above all, be artistically grand and speak from Mount Olympus.

Thanks for reading!


3 comments on “Mix it up Monday: How to Really Bomb a Master Class (Advice for the Teacher)

  1. Jessica Baldwin
    May 30, 2016

    So. Much. Yes.


  2. Daniel
    May 31, 2016

    Thank you for your thoughts, Matthew Edwards. As someone who has some experience with historical pedagogy, your assertion that a teacher should not assert that they teach “bel canto” in a masterclass is well taken. No one likes a braggart. At the same time, there are teachers who understand themselves to be the recipients of methods and teachings that have been handed down from generation to generation. Does his mean their words and instruction are gospel and sacrosanct? Hardly. Be that as it may, I believe that it is far better to be inquisitive about another teacher’s methods rather than dismissive. Egos being what they are, it is easy to make claims, while the proof is in the pudding.


    • Matthew Edwards
      May 31, 2016

      These are not my words, they come from “On the Art of Singing” by Richard Miller. I just posted the whole section as I find many of the points comical since I have experienced them in the past. I 100% agree with you about being inquisitive rather than dismissive – very well said!



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This entry was posted on May 30, 2016 by in Misc. Thoughts.

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