From April 8 to April 18, the string students of the Atlanta Music Project Academy got a chance to perform for some of the master artists of their instruments. Thanks to funding from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the AMP Academy was able to bring in some of the best artists that double as amazing pedagogues.

What is a masterclass?

A masterclass is when an accomplished artist (often a guest artist) gives one student a lesson in front of other students, parents, other teachers and sometimes the general public. For the student in the “hot seat,” the opportunity to play for a big-name artist in front of her peers can be nerve-racking and often requires the same preparation as a concert. The student needs to be well prepared so that the master artist can work on things such as interpretation, musicality and artistry.

The first AMP Academy Masterclass started with our double bass players whose masterclass was led by none other than Joseph Conyers, the Assistant Principal Double Bass of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Joseph hails from Savannah, GA and played in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra before winning his job with the Philly Orchestra. Joseph is also Executive Director of Project 440, an organization using music to engage youth and communities. Finally, Joseph is also an esteemed member of our Board of Advisors here at AMP. Reflecting on his experience with the AMP Academy students Joseph remarked:

The kids were great.  They were very receptive and seemed to take in everything I was trying to tell them.  Generally, they were in great shape.   [The students] had remarkable bow arms for students their age. The biggest thing I enforced was drawing out the sound and bringing personality (energy) to their playing.  Jonathan (AMP Double Bass Teaching Artist) is doing a great job!

Samantha Williams, mother of AMP Academy bassist Joshua Sheperd, said of the masterclass:

It was a pure joy to see [Joseph Conyers] interact with and inspire the budding musicians.

The violin masterclasses were divided between advanced violinists and intermediate violinists. David France, who was a member of the 2012 class of the Sistema Fellows Program and the concertmaster of the YouTube Symphony, led the masterclass for intermediate students. David is also the Founder and Executive Director of the Revolution of Hope, an El Sistema-inspired program in Roxbury, MA. For our advanced violinists, we were able to bring in Domenic Salerni, the First Violinist of the Vega String Quartet. The Vega String Quartet is in residence at the Emory University School of Music. The Viola Masterclass was led by Ben Geller, a section viola player with the Rochester Philharmonic.

Finally, for our Cello Masterclass we were honored to have Martha Gerchefski, formerly on cello faculty at the Georgia State School of Music. Martha is a wonderful artist and master pedagogue, who has worked with Metro Atlanta cello students for many years. In fact, one of our Cello Teaching Artists, Jessica Kornhoff, once studied with Martha Gerchefski herself!

Kelly King, our Lead & Violin/Viola Teaching Artists said of the masterclasses:

These masterclasses were an opportunity for our students to not only become more comfortable playing in front of others, but also an opportunity for them to learn from one another.  So much of it was interactive and so many points were applicable to many students in the room.  These master classes helped feed this ‘community of learning’ we’re trying to create in our program. I knew our students would do well, but they definitely exceeded my expectations!

The 2013 AMP Academy Masterclasses went very well for a first run. We are thankful for the support of our parents and families, many of whom attended the masterclasses and made sure their child practiced for the masterclasses during spring break! Congratulations to our AMP Academy students, who are thriving in this conservatory-level program. Their musical development is rubbing off on other AMP students thereby lifting our program as a whole. Thank you to our guest artists Joseph, Ben, David, Domenic and Martha for spending time with our students and inspiring them to become the best musicians they can be. And of course, thank you to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, who made the AMP Academy a reality through their financial support.