A few weeks ago, our local association hosted an all day workshop with the delightful Seymour Bernstein.   It was such a fun day, as Mr. Bernstein is an engaging and entertaining clinician.

The day was divided into 3 segments.  The morning segment was a lecture entitled “Choreography at the Keyboard”.  After lunch, there was a student masterclass.  The late afternoon segment was a discussion called “With Your Own Two Hands”.

The first and third segments were said to be based on Mr. Bernstein’s books (both “20 Lessons in Keyboard Choreography” and “With Your Own Two Hands”).  The first segment Mr. Bernstein used pages from his books (“20 Lessons…” and “Musi-Physi-Cality”) in a slide presentation, but in the final discussion his book (“With Your Own Two Hands”) wasn’t mentioned at all (…and I must add that it was almost refreshing to have no pressure to buy anything… though I am very interested in check out his books!)

The way the Masterclass was conducted really caught my attention.  Of course, the three students that came prepared to play for the master teacher (and a big room full of teachers!) were visibly nervous. But Seymour Bernstein really has a way of putting his audience at ease!  He began the time by asking those of us who had ever participated in a masterclass to raise our hands.  Then he said, “It’s the most grueling experience, wouldn’t you agree?”   He went on to explain that the students are so nervous before playing that they don’t get a thing out of what the master is teaching the students that come before them in the program.  So, he said that instead of having one student play, and then discussing the piece and performance right then before the next student plays… he would have each of the 3 students play, in recital fashion, and then they would all (students and master) meet back up front to discuss the performances together.  Genius!  And it worked like a charm.  It was certainly more fun and less intimidating on the students (a huge plus), but it was very interesting (and less stressful for those of us who get nervous when our student play!) for the teachers as well.

I absolutely loved how he engaged all three students throughout the discussion and learning segment of the masterclass… it wasn’t just ‘play your piece, listen to the teacher, then sit down and it’s over’.  I would say it was one of the best (if not the best) masterclass I’ve ever attended.

Have you ever had any experience with Seymour Bernstein.. either through his books, concerts, or lectures?  Please share with us!

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