The Benefits of a Piano Student Masterclass

By Lester Cheung (Master of Music, Monash University, Piano and Education Manager at Bernies Music Land)

This is the beginning of the exam period for piano students. The best preparation for an exam is to participate in the Bernstein Masterclass Series, held at Bernies Music Land between June and September.

Here are some of the valuable benefits to participating in a Bernstein Masterclass:

Performance experience

Piano students aged 8 to 16 perform one of their exam pieces on a grand piano in front of a University level teacher. The benefit of performing a piece from your exam in the Masterclass is invaluable. One of the biggest exam hurdles is having to perform in front of an examiner. My advice to young students is to perform as much as possible as often as possible. Not only can you find out your strengths and weaknesses through performing, you also get the chance to adapt to different pianos than the one in your home. Whether you have an upright piano or a grand piano at home, the exam piano will most likely feel very different, so learning how to adapt is a key to a successful performance. We have over 50 pianos at Bernies Music Land, both new and pre-loved. You can even spend some time to try them all and gain further experience in other makes/brands of pianos.

Professional feedback

Unlike performing in an Eisteddfod (where you only get a comment sheet from the adjudicator, normally consisting of 2 – 3 lines, the Bernstein Masterclass gives you immediate live feedback from the teacher. This means they can assess your performance as if you were in a formal piano lesson. This feedback will be coming from some of the best teachers/professionals in Melbourne. I am thankful that they have taken their valuable time to support this program, because they are normally extremely hard to book due to their teaching and performance schedules.

Repertoire building

Students work extremely hard to prepare for their exams, but the problem is that they only play the selected exam pieces during that period. With Masterclass, students are able to hear other pieces outside their own repertoire. I have had young students purchase sheet music from our wide range after hearing it in the Masterclass. This builds the students’ understanding of musical periods and forms, which is useful in the general knowledge and aural test.

Lesson observation

Like anything in life, observing is an important element to learning. When I was in university, it was compulsory for us to observe at least 10 hours of lessons to pass the exam. In a 1.5 to 2 hour Masterclass, students can pick up hundreds of pros and cons of each student. Sometimes it can give a student a little more insight into musical or technical mastery of the piano.

The Bernstein Masterclass Series is held in Perth, Brisbane and at Bernies Music Land in Ringwood, Melbourne. Read more and enroll now at or phone Bernies on 9872 5122.

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