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Rhapsody in Zoom: Recap of Fall Master Classes

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December 16, 2020

Online learning during the pandemic has presented multiple challenges to professors and students alike. But one of the shining diamonds to grow out of this pressured environment has been the creation of new opportunities for virtual master classes. Guest artists from around the state and nation “zoomed” into the homes of students this semester to impart wisdom, know-how, and advice.

Over the summer and early fall, PLU Music faculty connected with peers and respected artists to arrange these unique connections. Our students had a whopping 63 opportunities this semester to listen to and collaborate with world class musicians and teachers. In this post we summarize just a few of the experiences for students involved in Wind and Brass, Trumpet Studio, Voice/Opera, Jazz Ensemble, and Music Education. As it looks like online learning will continue into Spring 2021, faculty are continuing the positivity by planning more virtual guest visits.

Music Education

Future music teachers currently studying at PLU had two opportunities to connect with PLU Music Ed alums thanks to Dr. Linda Miller, Chair of Music Education. Hans Nelson ’11 is an assistant principal and did a presentation on classroom management and behavior issues. Nicole Laborte ’14 shared a timely and extremely helpful presentation on virtual learning and some of the tools that are in use in schools right now.There were great Q & A exchanges with both presenters; students were able to talk with a professional in the field doing the same work they will be doing themselves very shortly

Wind and Brass

Alex Shapiro leads a master class on compositionDr. Edwin Powell lined up a “who’s who” of some of the world’s finest Wind and Brass clinicians and artists. They included:

Students learned about the importance of setting small, realistic goals; practicing smarter instead of longer; being persistent and consistent; and the value of rest.

Composter Alex Shapiro led a special session where students broke into groups to record a snippet of music and the manipulated the clips into a composition. Three students have shared their compositions which you can listen to here:


Dr. James Brown and the Voice faculty assembled an impressive list of vocal master classes. The public was invited to attend some of them and you can view those sessions on their YouTube page! Instructors included internationally recognized tenor Lawrence Brownlee and many other stellar singers.

Jazz Ensemble

PLU’s jazz players met with five special guests artists, including newest faculty member Kate Olson. Other master class leaders were:

Topics covered specific to jazz included what it means to be a jazz musician, what a jazz composer does, best practices and techniques in jazz, and using a metronome to assist in developing your jazz style. Here’s what a few of the jazz students had to say about the classes:

I appreciated that the focus with each clinic wasn’t on the clinician’s instrument itself as well as the conversational aspect. The talk about theory, philosophy, and getting jobs was unique and very helpful. Nathaniel Lackey, ’21 Economics

I believe every single jazz clinician invited us to reach out to them and keep in contact, send them recordings, compositions, etc… That was very cool. Joshua Green, ’22 Music Education

Greg Yasinitsky told us to imagine where we want to be in five years and that we should do something every single day to work toward that. It was very inspiring that he told us that we should go into music, despite how everyone tells you shouldn’t. Taya Lovejoy ’24 Undecided

Trumpet Studio

Zoom screenshot with eight smiling facesDr. Zach Lyman traded master classes with his friend and colleague Dr. Amanda Bekeny at Kent State University in Cleveland, OH. In a typical year, an experience like this would be prohibitively expensive once airfare, hotels, etc are accounted for. But clicking a few buttons on the computer allowed Dr. Lyman to virtually visit students in Ohio and for Dr. Bekeny to “drop in” to the PLU Trumpet studio. Our PLU students enjoyed the experience and Dr. Lyman has already lined up a guest lecturer for spring—one with international clout!