Monday, April 23, 2012

Master Class with Jon Manasse

On Saturday, I played in a wonderful master class taught by Jon Manasse along with four other students:  Ryan Toher, Konrad Pawelek and Miguel Hernandez.  I thought Mr. Manasse was as good of a teacher as he is a performer.

I played second in the program on Weber's Concertino.  I started kind of tense, but after the beginning, I relaxed and played much better.  After I finished, Mr. Manasse asked how old I was.  When I told him 14, he said, "Wow!  I played that piece when I was fourteen."   He had a lot of good things to say about my playing, which made me feel a lot more comfortable -- I was really nervous.  He was an extremely nice and supportive teacher as well as being an informative one.

After that, we worked on tuning.  He first told me that there were 5 states of tuning:  in tune, sharp, flat, I don't know, and I don't care.  He said we could probably rule out "out don't care," and he had me play a tuning note with the piano.  He asked me if I thought I was sharp, flat, in tune, or I don't know.  I thought was out of tune, but I had to admit that I wasn't sure if I was sharp or flat.  Mr. Manasse said, it was good that I knew I wasn't in tune, and he said it was really hard for wind players to tell when they are a little off.  He said string players have an advantage, because they have to tune every time they play, so they have a lot of practice at hearing what it is to be sharp or flat, as they had to make adjustments every time.

He then asked me to play the beginning of my piece and told me to pay more attention and to adjust if it was out of tune.  Well, he told me that I tended to play a little sharp.  So he gave me some advice about how to work on tuning.  He said to put a tuner on a drone, and tune so you're really sharp.  Learn what it sounds like to be sharp.  Then, tune really flat, so you can be aware of what it sounds like to be really flat.  Then he said to work on different notes, and figure out what notes tend to be sharp or flat under differing conditions.

I liked the idea he had to learn how to recognize whether you are sharp or flat by playing sharp or flat on purpose in an exaggerated way to increase your awareness of your tuning.

Mr. Manasse was a really nice and informative teacher.  It was an amazing master class.  He gave me such good advice, and he did it in a way that made me feel good about my playing.  In fact, the theme of the master class was to remember why you play your instrument, to remember what you like about your playing, instead of taking a negative approach and focusing on what you don't like about your playing.  It's easy to get caught up in trying to perfect everything, and forget how much you love playing music.  I definitely do that sometimes!


  1. Dear Torin,
    My name is Elaine and I am the Executive Director of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival where Mr. Nakamatsu and Mr. Manasse are the Artistic Directors. I really enjoyed reading your review of their concert and about the Master Class with Jon Manasse. I was wondering if you would give me permission to post your piece about the Master Class on our Festival FaceBook Page? You can email me at elaine@capecodchambermusic.rg. Good luck with your music playing! If you are ever on Cape Cod in August and want to come to a concert, please let me know. Sincerely, Elaine Lipton

  2. Dear Ms. Lipton,

    I would love for you to use my blog on your facebook page or wherever you
    would like. Thank you for reading. Mr. Manasse was incredibly inspiring.
    I would love to come to Cape Cod and see a concert some day.

    -Torin Bakke