The Artist as Master Teacher
“I always say YES whenever I’m asked to teach a masterclass,” he told us. “It’s one way of giving back. I attended many masterclasses myself as a student and learned a lot from them.” …Words that show Thibaudet is a pianist with heart.
And a BIG one – as he amply demonstrated at the masterclass for Pianists held at the Zipper Hall of the Colburn School of Performing Arts in Los Angeles on November 30, 2001.
He had just performed Grieg’s Piano Concerto, with barely an hour to catch his breath for the next chapter of his residency with the LA Philharmonic. He entered the hall, understandably a bit late; so instead of taking the circuitous way, he bounded onto the stage with his sprightly long legs, and following a brief introduction, took on the role of Master Teacher.
For almost two hours, five students took turns trilling or pounding at the grand Steinway that had been set on the stage for the occasion. Handing the score to Thibaudet as she (or he – there was only one) walked on to the stage, each student then sat at the piano and played a short piece from memory. The works were by Bartok, Muczynski, Beethoven, Rachmaninov and Prokokiev.
Thibaudet listened intently at all times, and when he rose at the conclusion of each piece to give his comments, you knew right away that for this celebrity pianist, it was not a time to show off but to teach and share. He was quick to praise where it was deserved, and where he saw weaknesses, he went over them without intimidating – point by detailed point: showing one how to move the wrist, for example, to better the trill, or how much pressure to put on the pedal to produce the right color… and so on until the student could replay her piece or a part of it to an audibly improved level of mastery. Indeed, Thibaudet conducted this masterclass with such remarkable patience that the dean of the school felt compelled to suggest the teacher was spending too much time with each student.
This masterclass was a rare learning experience for the audience as well. Open free to the public, it could have been better attended than it was. What could one who was there say but: “Pity those (piano students, most especially) who were not there!”