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15 Questions to Martha Masters

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
On the airplane on the way back from a few concerts in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana.


What’s on your schedule right now?
Lots of insanity, this month I’m gone every weekend for concerts, which is great to be working doing something I love, but hard to be away from home so much.


If you hadn’t chosen for music, what do you think you would do right now?

I had an interest in arts management, and thought about that, but I’m not sure if that would have done it for me. Honestly, if I wasn’t a musician, I think I’d be at home enjoying life with my little girls. I hate leaving them, but I’d also hate not playing the guitar.


What or who was your biggest influence as an artist?
That’s a tough question to answer, I think because it’s always changing. Growing up, it was my family, my Dad in particular. He loved music, and inspired the passion in me by talking about it, listening to recordings with me, taking me to concerts, etc. Of course, each of my private teachers was a huge influence at the time I was studying with them. I wouldn’t have gotten where I am without each of their very different and equally important influences (especially Manuel Barrueco and Scott Tennant). After school, I also went through a period of complete idolization of Paul Galbraith, and I learned a lot from him (though he probably has no idea!). I’m also a huge fan of David Russell, and his playing has taught me a lot. Those four people have probably influenced me the most musically speaking. But there’s always a new tidbit I find from the most surprising sources, and that can be the source of a new influence/inspiration. Lately I’ve had very interesting discussion about vibrato with Brian Head and Risa Carlson, and that has been on my mind a lot. So maybe that will become my next big influence!


What’s the hardest part about being a musician and what’s the best?
Best is the huge range of emotions that can be conveyed without uttering a word. This is an amazing feeling to be able to share with an audience. Hardest part, I can think of several things that are hard, but the hardest has to be leaving family to perform.


What’s your view on the classical music scene at present? Is there a crisis?

Speaking without any particular insight into what’s happening globally with classical music, I actually think that in general, classical music is in a place to be more successful than ever. There is a great deal of crossover that is reaching new audiences, and I am hopeful that in general there will be an increase in appreciation. As for classical guitar, there is a huge improvement in the quality of education available at every age level, and it is really starting to pay off. The quality of the education not only increases the level of playing, but also the number of players – it’s more fun to play when you actually sound good! I am also hopeful that this will create life-long music lovers and supporters.


Some feel there is no need to record classical music any more, that it’s all been done before. What do you tell them?
I love to hear different recordings of the same pieces! That is, when the artist is really putting themselves out there, and you can really hear their personality in the playing. It’s so easy for anyone to make a recording now, and so the market is definitely flooded with discs, not all of which are created equal. But I absolutely support recordings of “war horses.” (Though it’s nice to hear newer works as well, of course.)


What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?

I try to forget about the technique, think a little about the phrasing, and mainly, to be completely focused in the moment on the power of the music. If it is romantic, I want to feel romantic, and to express that to the audience. If it is aggressive, I want to feel aggressive, and dig in with every ounce of strength I have. No holds barred. This is when I feel I’ve delivered a successful performance – and also when I feel I’ve witnessed one. It’s pretty hard to sustain that all the way through a concert, but I try!


What does the word “interpretation” mean to you?
As performers, we get a work of art, and it is our job to present it. We have to really enter into a partnership with the intentions of the composer, and our own sensibilities. So there is always room for very personal expression, but one must always respect the intentions of the composer as well.


True or false: It is the duty of an artist to put his personal emotions into the music he plays.
Absolutely 100% true. I can’t imagine anyone answering false! I’d like to have a debate with that person. If an artist doesn’t put personal emotion into it, why not just have a computer perform the piece?


True or false: “Music is my first love”

False. Family first. Music second.


True or false: People need to be educated about classical music, before they can really appreciate it.
If I have to choose, I guess I’d say true. But this is a tricky one, depending on how you define the word “appreciate.” People can enjoy classical music without any education; and their enjoyment of it may increase with education. To me, the word “appreciate” implies a deeper understanding. People can appreciate how the music makes them feel; and appreciate the beauty of the music. But I suppose without education, they can’t truly appreciate the intricacies of a Bach fugue; or the brilliance of thematic development in Beethoven; or the incredible level of skill it takes to perform these things. Than can like it, and be aware that there is more to it, but perhaps full appreciation only comes with education.


You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?
Tough! Well, I’m a fan of soloists and chamber music, not so much the orchestra. I’d want a string quartet; a piano trio; a piano soloist; a cellist; a violinist; a guitar duo (my other passion); and a guitar soloist. And I’m sure that list would grow immensely if I thought about it more.....but those are my favorite types of concerts to go to.


What’s your favourite classical CD at the moment?

I actually haven’t listened to a CD in a while! But my latest favorite that I obsessed on is the (relatively) new CD by Paul Galbraith with all French music. Gorgeous Ravel, I could (and have) listen to that over and over.


Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?

I played piano for a few years, and I was pretty bad at it!! No career there for me.


Picture by Blake Little

Discography:
Serenade (self-released)
Guitar Recital (Naxos)
GFA 2000 Winnder (Mel Bay)
Viaggio in Italia (self-released)


Homepage:
Martha Masters

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