Master class with a master teacher: Spotlight on Ms. Berardicelli

Bryan Yuk, Staff Writer

In the midst of the pandemic, Ms. Berardicelli got an unexpected phone call. A music teaching job opened up at Commack. 

“It was a shock when it happened in the middle of my student-teaching. Suddenly, I had a job in the middle of a pandemic,” said Berardicelli.

Her interest in music started from a very young age. Whether she was playing or listening, music was all around her. Eventually, she knew she wanted a career in music.  

“I grew up with a lot of music in my house. My dad teaches guitar, [sitar, and Indian classical music], which is where I developed an interest for world music. I also listened to a lot of rock music, and classical music because my siblings were in orchestra classes. [My love for music grew even more] when I got my own computer because I was able to learn new composers and the music of different countries around the world.”

Growing up, Berardicelli was inspired by her music teachers who encouraged her to be more confident. 

“[My music teachers] always pushed me to strive for my best and help me get out of my bubble because I was very introverted and shy growing up. They helped me gain confidence in myself and always pushed me out of my comfort zone. [Experiencing] that has made me want to be a music educator and provide that for my students.”

 After getting the job, Berardicelli was thrust headfirst into a hectic environment. First, she had to acclimate to the lifestyle of a teacher. Additionally, she had to operate through a virtual class setting. 

“My four years of college training did not prepare me for a virtual setting to teach stringed instruments. My main thought was how can I make my students enjoy and find peace within class but also make sure they’re practicing and learning.”

Making class engaging is hard enough, especially when you’re a new teacher. Add on a pandemic and it gets much harder. Given the circumstances, Berardicelli knew she had to get creative. 

“I’m constantly trying to think outside the box and really think of what I can do for you all to just have you all expand your musical knowledge. [One idea] I had was implementing a masterclass in the classroom. A masterclass is when you get a whole group of [students] and one of the students is chosen to work with the teacher in front of everyone else. Even though [it’s] a very nerve wracking experience because you’re playing publicly, it’s beneficial to both the person playing and the people listening because when you’re watching, you see and hear more [compared to when] you’re actually playing. That third person perspective changes everything. I wanted to bring the idea of us all learning from each other into the classroom.”

The masterclass was well received by students.

”I liked [how] we could point out each other’s mistakes [in order to] improve our skills. I liked how we got to hear each other play after a year and see each other. The master class brought us closer [and is] a good alternative to in school playing,” said sophomore Meiya L. 

Despite the success of the masterclass, Berardicelli has new plans once everything goes back to normal. 

“I want to hit the ground running. That’s my main goal. I want to jump right into playing music as a full ensemble because [the students] haven’t had that for over a year now. I’m going to throw many pieces at [them] at different levels and different styles to get [them] out of [their] comfort zone. I’m personally really passionate about the idea of incorporating world music into a western classroom. I want to bring traditional Indian music into the classroom which [is taught aurally]. Also, [I want the students] to learn about the culture [of the music] because I don’t want it to be short -changed. I want [my students] to realize that [all] music [around the world] is unique.”

To the incoming freshman on the fence about joining the orchestra, Berardicelli has a message.

“Stick with orchestra, even if you feel like you’re not good enough because I promise you, you are. Keep practicing, keep playing, because once you leave high school, the likelihood of you picking up your instrument diminishes. Enjoy it while you can.”🔳