A few days ago I had the great privilege to sit in on a Master Class at the University of Tulsa School of Music conducted by Kyle Pfortmiller, Visiting Artist, baritone with the New York City Metropolitan Opera. Six vocal music students sang and then received instruction and encouragement that could literally change their lives.
Mr. Pfortmiller listened intently to each one. He focused. He zeroed in on the one thing (the essence) that would improve their performance. Once they acknowledged that essence he worked with them to take their performance to a new level. There were no negatives, only encouragement, and no direction to be like him but to better as themselves in their own uniqueness.
“Whatever he (the Master) does, he does with the enthusiasm of doing it the first time. It means that what he is doing is always new because he is doing it for the first time. This is the source of his unlimited energy. Every lesson he teaches (or learns) is a first lesson. Every dance that he dances, he dances for the first time. It is always new, personal and alive.” From Zukav (above)
It was the fact that I was witnessing in the flesh this constant renewal of energy feeding off the students that got my full attention. People often ask me if I do not get tired coaching people in their careers. But I experience the same thing. Everyone is different. I am not teaching the same thing over and over, I am teaching it for the first time every time I do it. There is the story of a Master fish cleaner in China. He never gets tired because every fish is different requiring a fresh approach and a new strategy.
What else did I witness? The Master as a humble servant. Mr. Pfortmiller did not approach this Master Class with the arrogance of an expert, but rather with the attitude of a humble servant and the mindful openness of a child in the service of others. He sought to learn as he taught. It was this attitude that enabled him to take the students from where they were to a better place (in twenty minutes each).
This is the process that separates a highly skilled technician from a Master. One of the great opportunities that life offers to everyone is the transition from apprentice to master. This is not the perfection of skills; it is the transition from arrogance to humility. The master seldom calls himself master because he knows how much he needs to learn, and in fact that it is a never-ending process. He/She leaves the titles to others.
We need more true Master Classes, like the one I witnessed in a small recital hall on the TU campus, in every field of every vocation from art and music to science and engineering to leadership and followership. For me, it is the pursuit of what everybody needs to know about themselves and what every leader needs to know about his/her people. Would you like to join this pursuit?
Discussion is always welcome! Frank Wantland – email@example.com