Mastering the Class

Local students star in "MasterClass," an HBO doc that follows an arts mentor program

When we got assigned a mentor, all we got was an overworked guidance counselor who tossed us some college brochures and called it a year.

But when six local students were given the chance to get some "real world" advice, architect Frank Gehry, opera singer Placido Domingo, artist Julian Schnabel and six other famously creative folks showed up.

HBO went along for the "Fame"-ish ride and the result is "MasterClass," which debuts April 18th - and Miami is fully represented.

In the "Master" category is Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor and founder of the New World Symphony.

And in the "Class" category: Melissa Fernandez, Ernest Baker II and Gentry George pirouetted and leapt with New York City Ballet's Jacques T. Ambrose and choreography god Bill T. Jones, while visual artists Cathryn Garcia-Menocal, James Sprang and Sheena Klimoski took to the canvas with Gehry (Guggenheim in Bilbao, the new digs of Miami's own New World Symphony), and Olafur Eliasson (The Weather Project in London's Tate Museum, New York City Waterfalls).

MasterClass Preview

The students are all alumni of the YoungArts, the core program of the national Foundation for Advancement in Arts, which hooks students of the arts up with leaders in their field of study.

Baker, who graduated from Carol City Senior High and is now at Eugene Lang College, said he went into class with Jones with an open mind and ready for critiques.

"Subsequent to running the piece about six times in a row, Bill asked me to modify one of my hip-hop dance steps," Baker recalled. "As I did, he continued to dislike it. After a number of tribulations we finally came to a conclusion as to what we both liked; when I mixed my preferred hip-hop style with his distinct modern technique together I created a whole new contemporary movement we both were excited about. Bill was shocked with ambiguity!"

Before taking part in MasterClass, Garcia-Menocal said she was merely hoping to improve her sculptural work - she has since changed her majors at Washington University to architecture and sculpture -- but left with "a complete re-evaluation of my place in the world."


"It is important that you both create and participate in opportunities. Martha Graham said it best, asserting that you must to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. This is what makes artists more alive than most."

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