This paper presents some findings of a qualitative case study of a music summer school taking place in the UK, which celebrated its sixtieth anniversary this year. Its original intention was to be a summer school for every type of musician, encompassing professional performing artists and tutors, conservatoire students, and amateurs. Sixty years on it still aspires to include this diverse range of musicians, despite being situated in a radically different pedagogical, social and musical environment. The summer school is attempting to reconcile this changed universe of the twenty-first century with its historical roots, a situation exacerbated by the continued attendance of individuals whose participation dates in some cases from the genesis of the summer school. A lineage of distinguished artists, tutors and artistic directors provides a historical standard with which the modern-day festival constantly finds itself compared.
The masterclass is considered as a focus of these pedagogical challenges and as a representation of the master/apprentice relationship characterised by the traditional conservatoire model of music education. Through data from interviews and field notes, the changing participant and tutor experience of masterclasses at the summer school is used as a means of analysing the past, present and future of the institution. It questions whether the aesthetic values which informed its foundation are relevant to today’s amateur musicians, many of whom prioritise active participation over passive audience membership, and aspiring professionals, whose career trajectories will be radically different to those of their predecessors at the summer school.