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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 3 March 2021

What is Masterclass? What to know about the online platform with courses taught by celebrities

Author Margaret Atwood, chess champ Garry Kasparov and film director David Lynch have signed up to teach on Masterclass

Serena Williams teaches tennis on Masterclass.com. Quinn Rooney / Getty Images
Serena Williams teaches tennis on Masterclass.com. Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

With January the time to make New Year’s resolutions, by now most people are mentally putting together a list of things they’d like to achieve in 2021.

While for some, simply "getting off the sofa and going for a walk” or “finally watching The Mandalorian" might suffice in these Covid-hit times, for others, the moment has come to polish those existing skills or explore a long-held passion.

Taking the concept of home learning and adding an A-list twist, Masterclass.com is an online school with a difference. The difference is that the teachers are among some of the most famous faces on the planet and formost experts in their field.

"It's the stuff that I wish someone had told me a long time ago," says Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey's Anatomy, Bridgerton and Scandal, of the insider insights she divulges in her classes.

And with the usual route to mastering a new skill, such as via evening or weekend classes, having been dealt a blow by social distancing and the pandemic, the “new normal” way of doing things is to move online.

Lessons with Wintour, Ramsay and more

“I wanted to build a school that teaches things that people can’t take away from others," says co-founder David Rogier, who created the business alongside his friend, Aaron Rasmussen. "I wanted to create a school that made it possible for anybody in the world to learn from some of the best minds and masters of their crafts. I thought: 'How do we do this affordably, where it’s not thousands of dollars. How do you do it in a way for somebody like me who is curious and wants to learn?'”

The online portal has so far gathered together some of the biggest names across a variety of industries, including writing, cooking, business, sports and science. Classes range from two to five hours in length, which are made up of several lessons lasting between five to 25 minutes each.

With creative writing lessons from The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood, The Da Vinci Code’s Dan Brown's classes have emerged as a pupil favourite, in which the mega-selling US writer delves into how you set about finding and developing your book idea. In science and technology, Dr Jane Goodall teaches a class in conservation, while in food, the Michelin-starred likes of Wolfgang Puck and Gordon Ramsay offer up cooking lessons. And in her 12 creativity and leadership classes, US Vogue editor, Anna Wintour shares insider insights on managing and nurturing talent, decision-making and brand evolution.

Award-winning tutors

Christina Aguilera wants release the follow up to 2012’s Lotues next year. Angela Weiss / Getty Images / AFP
Christina Aguilera gives 23 classes in singing and songwriting. AFP

With Netflix’s chess-based drama The Queen’s Gambit being credited for US sales of chess sets increasing by 87 per cent, and books about chess going up by 603 per cent according to marketing research company NPD Group, there’s no better time to pick up some tips from Garry Kasparov, a Russian chess grandmaster and former World Chess champion.

However, Rogier is keen to point out that simply watching Kasparov's lessons won't turn you into an instant grandmaster, telling Vox: “I think there’s just stuff you can learn from the absolute best that you can apply to whatever part of your own life.

"The impression that we’re trying to create is that you’re sitting on a couch with that person and they’re going to share everything they know. There’s something about the intimacy and bond with that person that excites me.”

If the checks you’re interested in are of the dogtooth kind rather than mate, designer Marc Jacobs teaches fashion design, while in the design school, architect Frank Gehry, the man responsible for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, teaches design and architecture.

Elsewhere, famed photographer, Annie Leibovitz runs a photography class, comprising 15 lessons, including portrait photography, working with light, and the studio versus location.

Gone Girl director and four-time Oscar nominee David Lynch teaches a creativity and film class, with lessons on casting for character, working with actors and scoring; while multi-Grammy winner, Christina Aguilera offers 23 classes teaching warm-up exercises, breath control and vibrato.

And as to which celebrity expert Rogier will be tapping up next to share their wisdom: "I would love a class from Elon Musk," he admits.

Updated: December 28, 2020 03:51 PM

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