Letter From Ross Daly - New Seminar Policy
The Musical Workshop Labyrinth has been in existence for exactly 30 years now and we have been organizing an intensive and comprehensive series of workshops and seminars focused on modal musical traditions in our present location of Houdetsi for precisely 10 years now. During these 30 years, due to the rather special nature of the subject of our interest (which is anything but a subject of mainstream interest), we have frequently been obliged to adapt to the special demands of special circumstances and even, on some occasions to completely re-invent ourselves in order to precede to the next phase of our work.
The present times and circumstances in Greece certainly qualify as "special circumstances" to say the least, and it has become increasingly apparent to us that certain adaptations on our part to the new realities which arise are now necessary. For a start, it has become increasingly difficult for the Greek students to participate to the same degree that they participated in previous times due to the dire economic circumstances of the country itself. Unfortunately I'm not at all optimistic about the economic prospects for Greece in the near future so it is subsequently clear to me that we ourselves will have to do something about the situation and find ways in which to support our students who encounter economic difficulties. The first thing which came to mind with regards to this is the creation of a scholarship and sponsorship program with the assistance and participation of businesses (local and foreign) and other agents from either the public or private sector. We have now started actively working in this direction and we hope to have results to announce in the near future. Of course the very acute nature of the Greek crisis has drawn our attention quite dramatically to the plight of our Greek students, but we have also noticed a similar problem encountered by students from other countries (primarily Southern European). For this reason whatever scholarship and sponsorship programs will be created and implemented by us will of course be open to all applicants regardless of nationality, gender etc.. We will post regular updates concerning this program.
Another element of our activities which I believe needs to adjust to changing realities concerns certain aspects of the seminars themselves. It has always been our wish that the seminars should be as inclusive as possible and for this reason we have thus far never set down any specific preconditions necessary for someone to participate in them. In some instances this policy has been successful and in others less so. It is, however, becoming increasingly clear that some sort of partition of students according to levels of competence and achievement will be necessary in the future for the mutual benefit of all. Indeed, this policy is already in effect with considerable success in certain seminars where very large numbers of participants necessitate the presence of two teachers. The basic concept of our new policy (starting in the summer months of 2013) will center on seminars targeting initially two different levels of students. These will have the following characteristics:
1) Master Class: The Master Class will target students from a high-medium to an advanced level and the number of participants will be limited to a maximum of 10. These classes will be taught by teachers of the very highest calibre and, in this way, we hope to make the best possible use of them. The main emphasis in these master classes will be on primarily musical matters such as interpretation, improvisation, advanced theory etc and there will only be a limited focus on technical matters in the context of special technical aspects relevant to the playing of the teacher in question. General technique as such will not be the subject of master classes as it will be assumed that the student is already accomplished in this field. In other words, the master classes will afford the opportunity to exceptional and unique musicians/teachers to impart the maximum amount of knowledge to students who are at least reasonably capable of absorbing it in the very short time of one week ascribed to each seminar.
2) Seminars focusing on general aspects of specific instruments or of specific vocal traditions. These seminars will target students whose level is from that of a near beginner to a low-medium category. In these seminars there will be much more emphasis on aspects of general technique as well as on basic theoretical groundwork. The maximum number of participants for these seminars will remain at the present number of 20. We have on several occasions noticed that often students of a not so advanced level will find themselves in the company of other advanced students and that the inevitable gaps in their knowledge prevent them from being able to effectively follow what is being taught, a situation that we definitely wish to avoid in the future as it is to no one's benefit.
Of course changes in the structures and policies of the seminars will also inevitably bring about certain other changes. The seminars of the second category, focusing on general aspects of a given subject, will not require a teacher who is the world's foremost exponent of his instrument or tradition. There are many other teachers of exceptional competence who are more than enough for the needs of such seminars who are also not as expensive for us as are the absolute top level teachers (who quite rightly command high prices). In this case it will be possible for us to reduce the price of these seminars from its present level of 270€ (including breakfast and accommodation) to 220€ including accommodation (breakfast will be optional in the future).
In the case of the master-classes however, the price will necessarily rise from the present 270€ (including breakfast and accommodation) to 390€ with accommodation included (breakfast optional). The downside here is obviously the increase in price, however there is definitely an upside which is the drastic improvement in educational services offered by this new format of 10 students maximum, all of whom are at a relatively advanced level. This will result in all of the students getting a lot more out of the teachers and also in the teachers being able to teach at a level where their special and unique attributes are apparent and are of real assistance to the students. Regardless of other considerations, the situation thus far where world class musicians sometimes found themselves instructing beginners was not viable and a change in our policy regarding this was inevitable. We will however arrange that the general seminars and the master-classes for a given subject will take place during the same week so that everyone with a related interest will be able to meet, interact and learn from each other, regardless of level, outside of lesson times during the remaining hours of the day (and night).
These new policies are still in somewhat of a developmental and experimental phase and they are anything but "set in stone". We welcome whatever input you might wish to contribute as we highly value your points of view and opinions on such matters.
All the best for 2013