Janis Ian has given master classes in both conventional and unconventional settings, always with an eye to passing on the legacy a five-decade-career has allowed her to experience. Although originally geared toward actors, musicians, and writers, the classes have also been used by classes in nursing, music industry accounting and management, and general audience members. In the recent past, she has worked with Berklee College of Music, The Stella Adler School, The Swannanoa Gathering, Gamble Rogers Festival, and Philadelphia Folk Festival.
Ian's master classes fall into two categories:
-- A one time 2-3 hour presentation that includes live performances, the history of music "from cavemen to syphilis, and its effect on the arts", personal anecdotes based on Ian's three decades of experience as writer, performer, and business person, and a "shoot from the hip" Q&A session.
-- A one week series of 1-2 hour classes that explore all facets of the arts and music industry in more depth, as well as classroom questions and discussions designed to challenge the participants to "think outside the box" and look openly and honestly at their own definitions of success, failure, and what it means to live as an artist in the modern world. In addition to the above, topics also cover the fundamentals of performing, tricks of the trade, song deconstruction, business do's and don'ts, how to nurture your creativity, and much much more.
Both classes feature a great deal of humor and live music. Known for her honesty, Ian encourages participants to "bring your hopes, your dreams, your fears" and lay them on the table.
Berklee College calls Ian's class "An open-ended, free-wheeling graduate level seminar featuring one of the best live performances we've ever seen. Bring your questions and a hearty appetite for knowledge!"
A professional, published singer/songwriter since the age of twelve, Janis Ian has made 22 major label albums that have sold a combined 9 million records worldwide. With 9 Grammy nominations and 2 Grammy awards in her arsenal, she has also been recognized by the New York State Senate for her civil rights work, honored by Queen Beatrix of Holland for her work helping people understand the Holocaust, and received honors from a host of other organizations including the Human Rights Campaign Fund and MADD. Ian trained for a decade under noted acting teacher Stella Adler, as well as Chao Shao Lin of the Peking Opera Company and Dora Krannig of the Royal Ballet. She has had numerous short stories published, and most recently won an Audie Award and Grammy for narration, as well as having her first children's book, The Tiny Mouse, named a "best book of the year" by Kirkus Reviews. She counts among her admirers people as diverse as Wally Lamb, Steve Wozniak, Pat Conroy, Celine Dion, and John Mellencamp.
In other words, she brings a lot to the table!
Says Janis: "When Stella Adler told me I had to teach, I was horrified. My father was a teacher, and I know the enormous amount of preparation that goes into it. I've found, though, that I learn as much as I teach. I encourage presenters to ask my agents whether it's possible to do one the day after a concert, and we work hard to make that financially feasible. I didn't have much mentoring until my mid-thirties; now I'm trying to utilize what I was taught and pass it on!!"
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Janis Ian presented one of the most powerful and compelling clinics on music, artistry, creativity, commerce, and life that we have ever had at Berklee. She is an extremely intelligent and honest musician who manages to inspire while not varnishing over the hard realities of a life as an artist -- and the whole package is wrapped in compassion. I was touched and I know our students were as well.
Roger Brown, President Berklee College of Music
Janis Ian gives the finest Master Class I've ever seen. She brings so much to bear -- intelligence, savvy, craft, experience and wisdom, mixing them all in a practical package, all couched in the bigger picture of what it is to be a true artist. She certainly is, and communicates her artistry with style and grace. A national treasure.
Pat Pattison, Professor Berklee College of Music, author of Writing Better Lyrics
If teaching about artistry..... seeking it.... finding it ... nurturing it ... recognizing it's importance - or even just being drawn in enough to even consider what it means - has a spirit guide, it is Janis. Her own humanity and thoughtfully introspective sharing provided a safe place for students to seek new ground and attempt to reconcile the obvious and the unknown.
Carl Beatty, Chief of Staff
Berklee College of Music