The master class series has been an important part of the festival for six years, and is considered to be an important investment in the future of jazz and the broader music industry. The master classes provide a rare opportunity for music students, musicians, educators and festival-goers to gain insight into the thoughts and minds of the world’s greatest jazz masters. Despite the quality, content, and low ticket price of the master classes, attendance numbers remained low throughout the six years prior to 2011.
In 2011, MIJF trialled free master classes. The change in attendance was dramatic: all seven master classes attracted capacity attendance with some audiences turned away. MIJF applied for a grant to facilitate free master classes in accessible, high profile locations in 2012.
MIJF aimed to run seven master classes, over seven days, featuring seven international artists, attended by up to 1,750 people.
Previously master classes had been held at Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club; moving the series at The Wheeler Centre (TWC) offered greater capacity and potential to reach a broader audience through TWC’s complementary networks. The aim was to achieve 75 per cent capacity at the venue.
The project exceeded its goals and recorded an attendance rate of 87 per cent capacity and a 12 per cent increase in master class participation.
Although the project succeeded in hosting seven master classes with seven artists across seven days, it was not possible to hold all master classes at The Wheeler Centre, which meant that total audience attendance was lower than was hoped at 1,103.
This grant provided pivotal support at a key juncture in MIJF’s existence and facilitated a new strategic approach which helped grow and diversify audiences. The funding enabled MIJF to offer master classes free of charge for a second year, establishing it as a hugely popular part of the festival program.
MIJF is confident that increased private funding and an ongoing partnership with The Wheeler Centre, will ensure that the master class series will be able to continue as a free feature of the Festival program in coming years.
‘Something I learned from Robert Glasper was his view of how his background and upbringing helped shape his music. As a jazz student here in Melbourne, I feel a long way from the places where music is developing and ‘happening’.
Although I love the scene here in Melbourne – we have some fantastic musicians here who I regard just as highly as anyone – but in some music I think we feel that since we come from such a different background we don’t have the credibility to play certain styles...
I remember my drum teacher talking about James Brown’s drummers – and how we could never sound anything like them since we have had such different experiences.' - MIJF master class attendee 2012