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Masterclassin’ up the joint

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John CoriglianoComposer John Corigliano (winner of an Oscar, a Pulitzer, and three Grammys) is in residence at Michigan State this week. The band, orchestra, and choir programs are putting together a program this coming Saturday night of his works, including Pied Piper Fantasy (feat. Prof. Richard Sherman, flute), DC Fanfare, and Circus Maximus. I’m looking forward to what I’m sure will be an excellent program, and I’m also planning to catch some of the rehearsals with Corigliano this week. On Saturday morning, Corigliano is giving a masterclass. I, along with my colleagues Kevin Wilt and Victor Marquez-Barrios, have been invited to present a piece in the masterclass for Corigliano and the rest of the assembled hoard to critique.

If you don’t know what a masterclass is, or if you’ve only been to performance masterclasses, composer John Adams just wrote a humorous and thoughtful essay on composition masterclasses that you should read. As a summary, I will tell you that he calls the student composer “the victim” and the process “ritual disembowelment.”

I find masterclasses to be a bit nerve-wracking in the best of situations, but this will be something else altogether. This will be a masterclass given by one of the most prominent American composers of his generation, and I imagine it will be attended by several members of the faculty from outside the composition area. Thankfully, I will be presenting a rather short (6½ min.) piece, Falling up the down escalator. Also, I happen to have a stellar, recently-released recording by the H2 Quartet.

I’m hoping to come out of the experience smarter but not in too much pain.