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Craig Knox  Photo: craigknoxtuba.com
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Master Musician Teaches Master Class

By Caroline Pratt ’13

Members of the Notre Dame College Marching Band and students from other universities had the pleasure to listen to and learn from a world-renowned musician on the evening of Jan. 24. Craig Knox, principal tuba player in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, conducted a master class for music in the Regina Auditorium.

“There is a misconception that music is only about playing in a band,” Knox said. “But music is a discipline that utilizes skill sets including physical coordination, mathematics and self-expression.”

In front of 80 audience members, Knox performed a few solo Bach selections first, and then played a Mozart duet with Tom Lukowicz, brass caption head at Notre Dame. A former student of Knox, Lukowicz is the current principal tuba player with the Canton Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of New York and the Pittsburgh Brass.

After the performance, Knox discussed efficiency of practice and the value of mastering basic techniques such as breathing, tuning and consistency of tone. Flawless technique, however, is not the highest priority, Knox explained.

“As musicians, it is important that you keep the nature and the expression of the music as the first priority,” he said. “[Because] music is expression, and it’s a way for people to connect and to communicate inner thoughts and feelings that cannot be put into words.”

Craig Knox instructs at Notre Dame College.
World-renowned musician Craig Knox (left) instructed at Notre Dame College.

Knox has hosted dozens of master classes. In addition to teaching positions at Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, he has taught and performed for diverse audiences around the world.

“The ability to attract a musician like Craig and to become an institution synonymous with quality instruction at that level is unprecedented at Notre Dame,” said Bill Neater, director of bands at Notre Dame College.

A master class typically involves a professional musician actively instructing a student in front of audience members of varying skills. Knox explained that the class extends an incredible opportunity to the student and provides “common threads” of knowledge for the audience.

“And it’s all under the umbrella of creativity and the imaginative nature of thinking outside the box,” he said.

Ben Sluder, a high school student from Ashtabula and a fellow tuba player, left the master class with a clearer understanding of how to improve his playing. 

“What really stuck with me were the breathing techniques,” Sluder said. “It was pretty interesting, and I had never thought about breathing that way.”

J.C. Sherman, an audience member and former colleague of Knox, said the teaching value of listening to someone like Knox is immense. 

“Every time you work with someone of this caliber, you take something away,” Sherman said.

Sherman played tuba alongside Knox in the Blossom Festival Band in Blossom, Ohio. Both share a deep appreciation for musicality.

“Besides my profession and my livelihood, music is the most complete expression of the self,” Sherman said.

Neater agreed and said the master class was only the first foray into hosting instructional lessons by accomplished musicians for the greater Notre Dame College community. The master class concept is part of an overall effort to establish Notre Dame College as a destination for the competitive musical arts and classical training, Neater said.

“There is a need in Northeast Ohio for experiences like this, where interested musicians have the opportunity to interact with an accomplished musician and expert teacher,” Neater said. “Notre Dame College is proud to help address that need.”

Caroline Pratt '13 is a junior majoring in communication at Notre Dame College.