Feedback from Participants
Peter Knight's Masterclass Weekends
All comments reproduced with permission.
Peter, you are not only an inspiring musician (you were the reason why I chose to learn to play fiddle all those years ago) but a truly inspiring master teacher.
You may recall that I said at the start of the weekend that I wanted to restore my love for the violin. Well, through your wonderful teaching, playing, guidance, inspiration, gentle challenge (which was absolutely required!), ability to push me beyond my self-imposed boundaries and your warm friendship, my love affair with the instrument has become a passion like never before.
Thank you so much! I have learned not only new technical skills, but how to find a new integrity and dynamic in my music.
I look forward to making music with you again soon.
I had an extraordinary experience on the masterclass this year. I had no idea what to expect, and was so lacking in confidence when it came to my playing abilities that I wasn't sure what I could hope to achieve.
Peter's warmth, humour, kindness and patience were the perfect antidote to my nerves and he effortlessly built trust between us individually and as a group, such that we could attempt what felt like the absolute impossible.
Thanks to his encouragement and guidance, I discovered a completely new world of experience, both musical and personal, that was profoundly moving and hugely enjoyable.
There is obviously a long journey ahead towards mastery of improvisation, but Peter helped each one of us open the door, discover the path and take the steps with new found assuredness. What with the musical conversations, Mo's fantastic food and the wonderful company, the weekend passed too quickly. I am so grateful to you for providing such a precious opportunity to learn, grow and have fun.
Why have I returned to Oddington every year for five years, to be part of this masterclass?
The reason is that, if music is important to you, this is an exceptional opportunity.
Peter’s approach goes way beyond passing on a few tips to help us copy elements of his playing - and there’s certainly no note-bashing or teaching of trademark tunes. It is much deeper than that.
Peter is on a mission to help each of us, from beginners to advanced players, to explore and build our own musical vocabularies and put a bit of ourselves into every note we play. If being the best we can involves dealing with technical issues, other barriers or learning new techniques, he doesn’t let that go. He helps us out, kindly and sensitively.
He also gives generously of his own experience and wisdom, freely sharing with us the journey he has taken to become the great musician that he is today.
Laughter and inspiration are guaranteed, and there are sometimes a few tears, too.
In this sleepy Cotswold village, Peter and Deborah create an annual weekend oasis of trust, inspiration and friendship - a ‘safe’ environment where we can enjoy exploring our musical identities, taking risks and making new discoveries about the way our playing can grow and what it can become. I am very grateful to them both for that.
Peter Knight's Masterclasses are a very unique experience, because Peter is a very unique person.
If music can be considered as a high form of self expression then logically the focus should be on the person expressing themselves; the nature of their own personality, their life experiences, their particular voice, and their very personal feelings.
This is not what you normally encounter in a masterclass, but it is with Peter.
The usual masterclass is concerned with Ego, Prowess, overcoming "obstacles" in music and learning "tricks" You won't get that at Peter's masterclasses. Here the emphasis is not on How you express, but What you express, and how genuine this is. This concept is totally liberating as it becomes an irrelevant matter how advanced, or otherwise you are. Each student is the world's greatest authority on expressing their own feelings. Unfortunately we live in a world dominated by judgement and comparison, which inevitably leads to alienation of all but the most "talented" and therefore also the least sensitive. These (the sensitive ones) are destroyed by a competitive music establishment which has little time from self expression.
Peter's classes on the other hand are an extraordinary oasis of egalitarianism, where professional musicians of the very highest calibre freely and happily play with the rankest amateur, because each have something of equal value to express.
There is nothing false about Peter's encouragement. Amazingly, and unlike many professional musicians he is really pleased when you play well, and doesn't feel in any way threatened or that it detracts from his own playing, which is an inspiration in itself. From my own experience I can say that having never previously heard Peter play improvised music as a soloist, I reluctantly attended a feast of fiddles concert where Peter played.
I was in a dangerously deep depression, and on a "suicide watch" having to report weekly to my GP to have my mental state assessed. Normally an enthusiast for even the weakest performance, I was in a totally unreceptive state, just waiting for the music to finish so that I could return home, retire to my bed and escape briefly from my horrible life.
Amazingly from this miasma of misery, as soon as Peter played his very first note, I became electrified by the directness of Peter's playing. It shocked me out of a severely depressive state and established one of the most genuine connections I have ever had with another person.
These are genuine feelings being expressed through genuine music and although Peter's classes are not advertised as therapeutic, there certainly is therapeutic value to them. In my case, I think it's fair to say that Peter's contribution to my life and my mental health is enormous and even possibly life saving.; However, I am the peculiar exception. This is not the point of Peter's classes. It's merely an example of his inclusive attitude, that I have been allowed to join a group of serious and dedicated musicians who wished to extend the range and depth of their self expression.
To the average normal musician trying to survive in this modern competitive environment I would say- Have you heard of Peter Knight . Here is a person who is a very accomplished musician, who is happy with who he is and happy to express himself honestly. If you want to escape the "ratrace" of "competitive music and you want to remind yourself of that simple joy that you originally felt from playing music, take this wonderful opportunity to play with somebody who is not just a master of their own instrument, but who is also a unique human person who wants every musician he meets to be able to play their very best. Believe me this is a very rare individual, and if you're lucky enough to be able to share some time with him, grab it and be grateful.
To quote the old song "He's a man you don't meet every day".
Thank you - huge thank you from somewhere deep down- for a fantastic weekend.
I don’t know if it was your intention but I feel the Masterclass went “up a gear”. The opportunity to improvise not only with you Peter, but with Trevor (Watts) is a thing I will never forget. Just lovely. I felt very much at home in that few minutes, and that will stay with me. Thank you so much and please let Trevor know how much he is appreciated.
The areas which we explored and discovered over these two days were beautifully balanced in terms of when the happened during the weekend- lots about improvisation on Saturday with the evening with Trevor when people and the chance to delve deeper into that, and then some focus on rhythm and particular issues people wanted to find out about on Sunday. And I loved the way you rounded things off with talking about the place that the music comes from for each one of us. Just lovely and so right to finish with that.
Not only a Masterclass in our relationship with music and out fiddle playing, but also a Masterclass in the art of teaching, sharing and enabling others to shine by having such good intentions for them. You really do love the folk you teach - and there really is no other way to do it. Thank you for being able to put yourself in the place to do this.
For me - now looking forward to exploring new parts of my vocabulary to share in France (Masterclass). I’m in such a different place since last year …..and indeed even since last week, so as they say….watch this space.
A quick message, just to say how much I enjoyed, and benefited from, the
Two fantastic gigs, and the massed fiddle experience on Saturday night was a real treat - several members of the
audience told me how much they had enjoyed it, including a couple who were there last year and had come back for
I felt quite mentally and emotionally drained by the end of Sunday afternoon, but I think that is actually a good
sign, suggesting that some profound things were happening to me. I do hope it was rewarding for you too.
Once again, I have come away with ideas to move my playing forward, as well as some thoughts from last time, reinforced.
For me, the highlights of the Masterclass were the group improv sessions. I was actually very moved, on Saturday,
by the way you seemed to bring out the best in everyone's playing with the 'one-to-one' improvisations - quite
astonishing in a couple of cases. As I said as I was leaving on Sunday, it was a privilege to be part of that
group, and to watch people progress through the two days.
On Sunday, when we went around the room three times (while Roger and Geoff
broke the record for playing two chords) I was astonished at how some people went for it. Jo's pizzicato and Aly's
third one were particularly memorable for me, and Steve's 'attack' really seemed to mean something too.
Anyway, thanks once again to you both (and to Mo & family, Roger and
Vincent) for all your hard work that made for another unforgetable weekend.
Very Best Wishes,
Just a quick note to say thank you so much for the weekend. It was absolutely
fantastic! I feel so inspired and supported. It's been a very emotional time, and I struggled to hold back the
tears at many points, mainly from the positivity given by everybody. I loved playing with so many violins, a very
special experience that I hope we can share again. I felt really looked after and spoilt!
The following was written by renowned Fiddle player Brian McNeill following the Workshop he invited Peter to facilitate
at the Scottish Academy:
"Peter Knight is primarily known as the fiddler in Steeleye Span, the pioneering folk-rock group which has
done so much over the years to revitalise British traditional music. We here at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music
and Drama have recently, however, been treated to a different side of Peter's talents -as teacher and workshop
I have to say that the recent workshop he gave us on aspects of improvisation within traditional music is quite
simply the best I have ever experienced within our genre. It left our student body -excellent players themselves,
and hard to impress- both amazed and excited, and has already resulted in several serious new directions of study,
particularly for our fiddle players.
As a result, he now has a standing invitation to come and deliver workshops for us here at the Academy. I urge
you, if you have the opportunity, to do the same; it isn't often that we see the gift of music so well married
with the gift of education. The results as far as students are concerned will be deep, energising and long lasting".