Think about the one area of study you are very passionate about, something that really fulfils you. Got it? Now imagine meeting the greatest teacher in that field in the whole world. On top of that, imagine being selected to be one of this person’s students in a masterclass. Very exciting? YAAAAASSS! And very scary, too!!! This is how I felt when I found out my application for the El Escorial masterclass was successful. My passion is orchestral conducting and the teacher’s name is Prof. Jorma Panula, an 86 year old man who has still enough drive to travel the world and share his craft with conductors and musicians. Isn’t that itself already fantastic?!?
The location of my trip was El Escorial, a picturesque little town just outside of Madrid, the same town you may have heard of in relation to the El Escorial Monastery. There is incredible cultural and historical value in this monastery, however its description would be worth another such blog as this! Staying in such a lovely place was only one of the many positives about the whole trip. I was visiting Spain for the very first time. Having met many Spanish people beforehand, I was very glad to finally visit the country I have heard so many great things about!
The masterclass itself was an intensive week of conducting, studying scores, watching others conduct, reviewing videos from orchestra rehearsals and self-study. (Imagine having a week to spend all your time doing something you really enjoy.) It was hard work but so fun at the same time. My “week” however was really three weeks, since I did not dare arriving to meet one of the greatest Maestros and be unprepared for the course. I paid particular attention to my preparation since the repertoire was very challenging (one of the reasons I wanted to attend this class). There was Stravinsky, Falla, Varèse, Hindemith and also a new composition by Atso Almila, a Finnish composer and conductor who came to visit us in Spain and was of great help to all the students. Studying a new piece where the only available material is the actual score (i.e. no recordings etc.) was a very good learning process, so was studying the other difficult compositions.
Having worried about not being prepared enough, I later realised I was one of the most prepared students of the whole class and I dare saying I was among the better students, too. One of the ways to prove this is the feedback I was given, or the responsibility to perform (in concert) one of the most difficult movements of the whole repertoire.
The final concert turned out beyond expectations and the musicians and conductors were very friendly throughout the week. Overall, I am very grateful for having had the chance to attend this class and my thanks goes to the PGAF fund for supporting me in my education!