How to Plan and Organize a Successful Skype Masterclass. By Ruth Mayhew

Technology today allows us to communicate in wonderful ways! Our quest for knowledge is increasing, but so many of the people from whom we want to learn are remote. Budgets are shrinking, and the most interesting people are always incredibly busy. It is imperative that we find creative ways to bring note-worthy people in the flute community to us. Recently, the University of Alabama flute studio was fortunate to have a Skype Masterclass with composer Daniel Dorff. What a treat it was for all of us! This Masterclass started with a simple email to Mr. Dorff, who responded enthusiastically to the concept. His interest gave me the courage to forge ahead. I asked for volunteers from the flute studio at the University of Alabama to play for the Masterclass. Closer to the date I listened to all the performers to make sure they were prepared. About a week before the class, I tried out my equipment. It was a good thing I did not wait until the day of the class to try it out because I found that I needed to order a special cable to connect my laptop to the university’s system. Whew! The weekend before the class, I practiced the Skype connection with Mr. Dorff. When the day arrived, I was able to project Mr. Dorff on the big screen and through the speakers in our Recital Hall with the performers on the stage to the side.

It was a huge success! Daniel Dorff was enthusiastic and entertaining. His comments invariably began with positive observations and he would then offer insightful suggestions for the performer to make his music come alive. While it would have been wonderful to have Mr. Dorff with us in person, the Skype Masterclass was an economical solution for all involved.

Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when planning and organizing a Skype Masterclass:

  • Make sure the date/time of the Masterclass is mutually agreed upon - this includes time zone differences. If possible, have a few options from which the “Master” can choose. Send a reminder to the Master and all the participants about a week before the class.
  • If you are using a busy space for your class, like a university concert hall, double check its availability a week before the event.
  • If others are playing, have your own copy of the music in case they forget theirs. Luckily, this did not happen on our day, but I was prepared just in case.
  • Make sure your equipment works. This was what I was most stressed about since I consider myself somewhat technologically challenged. I had originally hoped to have it projected via video camera, but that ended up not being possible. If you are not able to “test” it with the Master, test it with a friend.
  • Make sure all the performers are prepared. There is a level of removal when the person is not standing next to you as you are playing. However, the Master deserves respect for his/her time and one way to show that respect is to be prepared.
  • Show your appreciation. I bought a card in which the entire studio was encouraged to sign, I enclosed the program for the event, and sent it via regular mail. It was a small but heartfelt way of saying “thanks for your time.” It was such a great experience for us and I wanted Mr. Dorff to feel that his time was worth the effort.

In conclusion, I recommend the Skype Masterclass as a way for us to reach out to other interesting, but busy, music professionals, asking them for only an hour or so to share their time and wisdom with us.

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