The mdw Orchestral Master Classes at the Leonard Bernstein Department of Wind and Percussion Instruments

One of the foremost professional goals of many Leonard Bernstein Department students is obtaining a full-time post in a renowned orchestra. In the interest of improving their chances of auditioning successfully, the Bernstein Department and the Rectorate agreed back in March 2019 to establish orchestral master classes. The idea was to afford ambitious students an additional opportunity to engage in personal exchange with colleagues from the respective orchestras before actually auditioning. These master classes offer a high-intensity platform for musical development and advancement by inviting active members of nationally and internationally leading orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic, the Wiener Symphoniker, the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Vienna Volksoper, the Tonkünstler Orchestra of Lower Austria, and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra to come and help prepare students for their upcoming auditions in a targeted manner.

Participation is open to all students of the Leonard Bernstein Department, with prize-winners from the department’s internal competition as well as higher-semester students being given priority if too many applications are received. These master classes not only include work on audition passages but also simulate final auditions as well as allow time for questions on performance coaching, audition preparation, mental training, and other fundamental topics. Special attention is paid to specific aspects that characterise every orchestra such as traditions of sound, ways of playing, and articulation. The advantages to be had from participating in these master classes are many and varied, and participation has a lasting impact on students’ individual development. Direct interaction with experienced musicians enables participants to benefit from their experience and expertise. This not only influences their musical interpretations and technical skills but also sharpens their understandings of style and context. By the same token, the participating students can present themselves to the orchestral musicians in a non-competitive environment that’s familiar and more relaxed than at an actual audition, which enables the tutors to get good specific and general impressions of the participating students’ respective levels. Moreover, these master classes have already resulted in multiple opportunities for students to substitute in the respective orchestras prior to their auditions.

The experiences of tutors from past mdw orchestral master classes such as Hannes Moritz (solo trumpeter of the Bavarian Radio Symphony) and Gerhard Fluch (solo trumpeter of the Bruckner Orchester Linz) further underline the quality and utility of this project. “It’s impressive how well the students are prepared,” emphasises Hannes Moritz. Gerhard Fluch adds: “The exchange between up-and-coming orchestral musicians and established professionals is of significance for both sides.” In sum, the orchestral master classes at the Leonard Bernstein Department are a unique opportunity for students to refine their abilities as well as present and further develop themselves in a professional environment, leading to benefits that run all the way from individual progress and improved quality to ultimate success in real-life auditions.

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