Pandemic Inspires the Sharon Rothstein String Master Class Series

July 31, 2020, 4:36 PM · It’s hard to believe that I’m already writing about Master class #14 with Annie Fullard, guest artist of our String Master Class Series for tomorrow, Saturday, August 1st, at 6 p.m. eastern time.

Annie Fullard
Violinist Annie Fullard.

It began with a simple phone call in the middle of March from a friend, Professor John Gilbert from Texas Tech University, offering to do an online master class for my students. By now it has blossomed into an entire master class series of epic proportions. In March, when we realized that we were in the middle of a pandemic and we had to start teaching online, my students, musician friends, quartet-mates, music colleagues and I seemed to be feeling a sense of isolation, panic, fear, dread, shock, as well as other emotions. Some of us were even thinking that we might actually die sooner than we ever expected.

When I started teaching online on March 18th, I knew that our monthly studio recital had been scheduled for March 29th. Knowing that my students were depending on me for wisdom, leadership and direction, I learned during those two weeks how to teach on an iPad and work with Zoom well enough to hold our recital as planned -- but online, instead of in the concert hall. For that first recital emotions ran high -- happiness, relief, elation. The sense of normalcy in being able to have our monthly recital as planned felt like an oasis in the desert for two glorious hours that evening.

In thinking about my friend’s offer to teach a master class online with my students (he is in Texas and I am in Michigan) using Zoom, I realized I could also teach a master class with him in Texas. I could reach out to some of my Facebook friends who are also wonderful musicians and artists and connect with them in this way as well. In that moment I felt a sense of excitement, that my world might be able to open up to new and wonderful possibilities. I reached out and started to connect with friends, one by one, via email, phone, Facebook chat, and yes, iPad for the first time.

One day I noticed a video that my violinist friend, Troy Googins, made with his two sons and posted on Facebook while they were quarantined in Japan. He said that he was feeling lonely and sad because so many performances had been canceled. I invited him to join us at our Zoom recital from halfway around the world. He started to attend all of our master classes and help me with ideas each week after each class. He will teach his own master class in our series later this year. Having his help and support each week has meant the world to me. You’ll hear him play the Bach double concerto with his sons if you come to the master class this Saturday. The isolation and sadness that we were feeling just a couple of months ago has evaporated, and has been replaced with happiness beyond measure as well as a place to grow as musicians and experiment with new ideas as the series progresses.

Each week more and more planning took place, as I continued to invite guest artists and professor friends and colleagues of mine from around the globe to join me in presenting master classes. Then more teachers started coming to observe, ask questions, learn new teaching techniques. Teachers started to bring students from their studios to observe and play for these wonderful people. It wasn’t just my students anymore; it was other people’s students, interested amateurs, friends and fans. Everyone was joining in on our sessions! I connected with long-lost friends, made new friends, met new colleagues, helped my students as well as other people’s students, and pretty soon realized that I was happier than I’d ever been, thanks to all of these wonderful experiences and people with whom I was collaborating each week.

It is rare, especially in these times, when reality exceeds a person’s wish list and wildest dreams when it comes to all things good: love, friendship, gratitude, inspiration, education, generosity, kindness, and loyalty. Nevertheless, that is exactly what all of us (especially me) who have participated in these classes have experienced in different ways and different times since this series started. It is not possible for me to express the gratitude that I feel in having the opportunity to present these classes while working with such wonderful students, parents, teachers, guest artists, and professors, while having the support of friends who come to observe and participate in what we are doing.

One of the guest artists with whom I recently collaborated sent me a message after we finished our class, telling me that we should continue with this series even after the pandemic is under control. That was one of the defining moments in which I was sure that all of us had found something new and very special.

If you would like to join us for our upcoming master classes attendance is $25 per master class, with proceeds going to the Children's Chamber Music Education Fund. Visit the donation page at to make payment and register by email to Limited student scholarships available.

Upcoming Master Classes:
Sponsored by SHAR

master class teachers
Upcoming master class teachers Annie Fullard, Desirée Ruhstrat and Charles Castleman.

Annie Fullard
Saturday, August 1st (6pm EDT)
Violinist, Cavani String Quartet, Distinguished Artist and Yates Chamber Music Chair, McDuffie Center for Strings

Desiree Ruhstrat
Saturday, August 8th (4pm EDT)
Violin Professor, Northwestern University, Bienen School of Music, and Violinist of the Lincoln Trio

Charlie Castleman
Thursday, August 13th (4pm EDT)
Violin Professor, Frost School of Music, Miami, FL

* * *

Master classes after August 13 TBA. Please e-mail me if you wish to know about future masterclasses or if you wish to participate as a student in a master class.


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