posted on Oct. 11: Journalist brings her expertise in music criticism to McMaster


Noted music critic Tamara Bernstein is bringing her expertise and experience to McMaster, to assist MA students in the School of Art, Drama & Music's music criticism course.

Her class, entitled Practical Music Criticism, will give students hands-on experience working as music journalists. Nine students will be taking Bernstein's class during the fall term.

This is the first time Bernstein has taught a criticism class. “The students are a really interesting, bright group with a strong background in critical writing.” While there are not a lot of jobs for music critics, there is a real need for people who can talk and write about music, she adds. “There needs to be someone who can act as intermediary between the technical side (of music) and the people who simply want to get more out of attending a performance.”

To practice their skills of critique, students will be attending musical events by themselves or as a group, and will also listen to recorded performances in class.

Bernstein, who is currently the classical music critic for the National Post, has a master's in piano performance and literature, with a personal affinity for late 18th- and early 19th- century works. Recently she has begun to play the medieval fiddle, describing herself as “a devoted amateur.” Prior to working for the Post, she was music critic with the Globe and Mail for 10 years.

Susan Fast, associate professor of music and director of graduate studies for the school, notes that the University's MA in music criticism is the only program of its kind in North America. “Broadly speaking, the program is concerned with the study of music as a cultural practice,” she says. Students are trained in recent theoretical approaches to the study of music taken from literary theory, psychoanalysis, feminist theory and performance theory, and others.

Courses include the study of music as it functions in contemporary culture, the history of music criticism, musical analysis, the history of performance and performers, as well as the course in music criticism.