RPF 11/12 Tradition and innovation in the masterclass: a multidisciplinary evaluative study

Project: Other projectOther internal award

Project Details


The project gathered data from masterclasses within the Music Department at The University of York as well as from masterclasses organised by Live Music Now in London. The masterclasses offered by LMN were distinctive in that they operated with more than one master working at a time with students, whereas those taking place at York followed the normal construct of one master working individually with one student at a time in front of an audience. Data from these sessions has been collated and analysed from the perspectives of music pedagogy and conversation analysis.

Layman's description

The project investigated music masterclasses led by single masters (University of York) and those with more than one master coaching a student or group of students at the same time (Live Music Now, London).

Key findings

The project involved the collection of a substantial corpus of data: video recordings of music masterclassses with single masters (Music Department, University of York) and those with multi-masters (Live Music Now, London), as well as qualitative data from students and masters (York and London). Data analysis resulted in published output as well as conference presentations and departmental seminars (University of York, Music and Education departments).

Findings from the research strand on audience observation suggest that while systematic observation is a recognised tool in healthcare training and in teacher-training, it is less developed within the domain of music education. This has a number of implications for masterclass audience members, who may have difficulty in relating the music and the insights from the master to their own practice. Audience members appeared to have received little or no guidance in observation and while some observers may gain greater understanding of the music and means of performing it, others may find it difficult to articulate their learning in this context. Associations of instrumental/vocal learning with physically 'doing' can make it a demanding context for audience members who may prefer to be physically involved rather than passively watching others. This strand is published in the British Journal of Music Education (Haddon, forthcoming, 2014).

Preliminary findings from the research on multi-masters suggest that this context provides scope for interaction between masters which could result in powerful learning experiences for participants. However, our findings suggest that multi-master coaching requires new understandings of the pedagogies inherent in this context and that masters may easily revert to consectutive single-master coaching sessions rather than capitalise on the possibilities offered by team teaching (particularly when the masters possess different specialist areas). Therefore, the research that we have undertaken presents the possibilities for developing practice with masters who are interested in working in this manner and the possibility for extending this work through further collaboration with Live Music Now. This strand is the subject of continuing analysis with the aim to publish journal articles and developmental pedagogical materials.

The strand relating to Conversation Analysis resulted in published output (see below, under 'Research Outputs'. A significant finding related to the number of instructions that masters gave students in one 'turn' of speaking, which has implications for students' success in executing these and also influences the perceptions of master authority within this context. Participating students (and their piano accompanists) also have to negotiate changes from 'playing' status to 'listening' status, which requires significant processing of verbal instructions and often complex chains of thought from masters. These have been detailed in our paper 'Now or not now?' (see below, under 'Research Outputs'). The area of conversation analysis within music remains rich in scope for research, and we hope to extend this. We also hope to extend some initial work undertaken on sociological practices, for example, through exploring the use of space and gesture within this context.

A further strand will explore how masters display empathy to participating students. This will involve analysis of data from our video recordings, and will form a proposal for forthcoming Music Education conferences in 2015: London - Reflective Conservatoire at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and 9th International Conference for Research in Music Education, April 2015, Reading.

Pending applications:
Funding for the development of these strands is currently being explored - we have submitted an application to the British Academy: 'Teaching, learning and interaction in the music masterclass' for an 18 month project to start 31/08/2014 running to 29/02/2016 total award requested: £9816.20
Effective start/end date14/12/1131/07/12


  • LB2300 Higher Education
  • music pedagogy
  • MT Musical instruction and study