Workshops and Master Classes

Workshops are like a booster shot.

Workshops are like a booster shot.

They're a potent one to four hour period where ideas are excited. Workshops are about creating "the spark" that will ignite the sustained burn of practice. In a workshop or master-class, listening to someone else play or ask a question can present a completely different way of thinking about a situation than you might come up with on your own. People who come to workshops and master-classes are serious about music, whether as a profession or for personal enrichment, and so they have the intensity of inquiry.

Fortunately, a certain bubbling of creativity has always led my life. I feel that enthusiasm, joy and exploration add to one's studies. As serious as we are, I think we can burn out if we're too serious. So I advocate treating your work as important, while not taking it or yourself too seriously. I teach to inspire a little bit of creativity and exploration, a sense of wonder, personal responsibility and curiosity.

I offer a variety of workshops and master-classes sure to inspire any musician at any level. My teaching style is about exploration and discovery and my classes are upbeat and participatory.

Here are some of my workshops:

If only other classes went by this quickly! Ellen, you should teach teachers how to teach.

Caroline Huber, Student


I have been solely making a living from music since 1990. I offer my ideas of what you have to do to make music your career. We'll discuss attitudes about how to stay healthy, whole, creative and excited about music; and how not to burn out. Subjects include: scheduling, setting up a teaching studio, getting students, getting gigs, how to prepare a press packet, networking, etiquette, and business and financial planning for creative artists.


Using tone, technical exercises, extended techniques, pentatonic and blues scales, graphic notation and game structures everyone can feel the joy, rather than the fear, of creating music.


I have often come across pieces where I've had to use extended techniques. My experience with extended techniques comes from improvising: from wanting to create textures and colors and discover different sonic landscapes. I teach extended techniques with a hands-on approach, based on fingerings that you know and how you blow. Then you can push what you know into the unfamiliar, making it become familiar. I show you how to get a certain effect, or how to find the steps along the way to getting it. These include the most common flutter tongue and jet whistle, chiffy sounds and even beat boxing. I'll demonstrate and simplify basic techniques such as singing and playing, quartertones, multi-phonics, microtones, jet whistles, slap tongue and more. We will explore how these unusual sounds can help the traditional tone, expression and intonation.


The creative process is fundamental to me, and I believe good art is a balance between skill, technique and the freedom to let your intuitive guide you. Using traditional and contemporary repertoire, we will develop skill and learn to create expression through specific objective exercises. With a fail-safe dynamic exercise and an "emotion chart" we will build the tools to express ourselves, and by creating stories we will help find the emotion in the notes. Feel the rhythm in every day life, and find the natural pulse in the music. Dance, march, skip — learn how subdivision and inner counting help us feel the phrases.


As musicians, we all need the tools to go very far and very fast! We'll talk about ways to vary your routine and start looking forward to your warm-ups. Get ideas about practicing technical passages with varied rhythms, note couples and simple improvisations. Get clear, visual mnemonic devices that help a wind player understand theory principles and how to recognize them in music. Learn how to memorize major and minor scales and the circle of 5ths, different practice patterns and how scales are used in music. I'll discuss practice planning and how in just twenty minutes a day you'll get more done if you have a plan. Learn how to use a timer, charts, stickers and other motivational tools.


This workshop is about mental and physical conditioning for musicians. We all get nervous. Some of us thrive on the adrenaline; others fear it. What's the difference? In addition to discussing basic physical and mental responses to stress, we will play using exercises that induce stress so that we can practice overcoming the jitters. Discussing stage etiquette is helpful for concerts and competitions. How we handle ourselves on stage is as much a part of the performance as are the notes. Inspired by my work with chiropractors, yoga, Alexander Technique and Suzuki theater training, I'll also discuss breath and body conditioning, stretching, physical warm-up/cool-down, fun finger exercises, possible injuries and ways to prevent them.

Reviews and Comments

You provided fresh insights into the art of playing the flute and an all-around great experience, not only for the students who performed, but for the teachers and other spectators in the audience, as well.
Patty Lawson
Flute Master Class Chair, MTAC Whittier Branch

During her week-long residency, Ellen displayed excellence in the areas of composition, flute performance, and improvisation. Her flute playing is at the highest technical level; her compositions, both traditionally notated and improvised, are original and impressive.
Dr. Katherine Ann Murdock
Music Theory & Composition; Director, Contemporary Music Festival, School of Music, Wichita State University

You are so much fun and my students loved the class. I was so impressed with how much you packed into 50 minutes. I appreciate all your many facets and your unending creativity and enthusiasm.
Frances Shelly
Professor of Flute, School of Music, Wichita State University

Ellen was energetic, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about all her subjects, and she presented her ideas in a non-intimidating manner. Ellen's approach to improvising and learning new techniques is great for beginners and the more experienced alike.
Jennifer Roth
Los Angeles Flute Orchestra

Ellen has done several master classes with various levels of flute players – from beginning to advanced students who have played 3-4 years. All of these students benefited from her sharing of flute technique, breathing, vibrato and intonation.
Mark A. Hunt
Director of Bands, Lincoln Middle School, Santa Monica, CA

My students were impressed with your musical ability. They were eager to hear you demonstrate techniques such as multiphonics, flutter tongue, and the jet whistle. In music rehearsals following your demonstration, these young musicians were excited to show off to their classmates what they learned in your master class.
Apryl Garcia
Assistant Director of Instrumental Music, 
John Adams Middle School, Santa Monica, CA

Extended techniques can be quite overwhelming but Ellen Burr has such an enthusiastic and magical way of presenting the techniques that even the novice can easily grasp the concepts. Through demonstration and audience interaction, Ms. Burr provides the participants a clear grasp of each topic. Her performance at the end utilizes the techniques discussed in class and demonstrates how a contemporary piece really can sound musical!
Ann Kreft, flutist, Chicago, IL