Written by Alain de Leonardis • Photography by Kayla Merrill, One Nation • December 21, 2016
What do Usher, Hans Zimmer, Christina Aguilera, Reba McIntire and Deadmau5 have in common? They’ve all been tapped by San Francisco-based Masterclass to impart their wisdom and experience online through beautifully produced video courses.
Want to learn the basics of EDM production, branding and self-promotion from Deadmau5 in a series of 20 expletive-laden video lessons? How about covering the essentials of film scoring with four-time Grammy winner Hans Zimmer? Would you jump at the chance to hear Usher talk about the art of performance? Even though Masterclass doesn’t actually put users in a room with these luminaries, it provides what may well be the next best thing. Aaron Rasmussen, who co-founded the venture with fellow Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Rogier, says, “David and I are serious about democratizing access to genius.”
As Rogier and Rasmussen developed the idea for Masterclass, they were able to enlist the help of friends and former schoolmates with connections to top creative professionals. Rogier had attended school with Dustin Hoffman’s daughter Becky, who helped get her father on board as one of the first instructors. From there, the founders have continued to build a repository of wisdom collected from some of the most successful professionals in the worlds of music, film, literature, cooking and sports.
The concept of “distance learning” has really taken off in the last decade. Even the old guard of traditional education has embraced the idea of reaching those who cannot otherwise take advantage of their offerings. Places like Harvard and MIT have created online education initiatives to develop this growing field.
Masterclass represents yet another opportunity for celebrity artists to use the Internet to reach their fans and the public at large. Moreover, it gives those who take the classes a rare insight into how these artists honed their craft and how they go about the business of creating.
At $90 for a two-to-five hour course, Masterclass offers prospective students educational experiences taught by top professionals in their respective fields that might otherwise cost an arm and a leg—if they were available at all. “Learn from the Best” is the Masterclass tagline, and it’s a good one.