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What Is a Maestro?

A violin soloist can become known as a maestro.
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  • Written By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2014
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Maestro is an Italian word that translates to mean master or professor. It is a title generally given to a highly skilled musician, but it can sometimes be given to an artist in other types of art. The term maestro, which is in the masculine form, is used for both men and women who are masters of music. The feminine form, maestra, has a different meaning that is not used in music. The term is used in many types of musicianship, and may refer to instrumentalists as well as composers, conductors, and teachers.

Though most people who are called by the name are college professors, a maestro can be almost anyone who has an audience for his art. It is a term of honor indicating that a person has great respect from the people who call him that, but there is no official way to become a one. Anyone who believes another person deserves great respect in an artistic field can unofficially bestow the title. To a music student, his music teacher is maestro. A world-famous violin soloist is also a maestro.

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This term is also used to cue the music at an event, and it is spoken to the person who is in charge of the music at a performance. An introductory speaker at an event might conclude his speech by saying “Maestro, please!” to indicate that the music should begin. This might also be said to cue entrance music for a performer or special guest at the event. The phrase was so widespread in use that it came to inspire a popular song of its own, “Music, Maestro, Please" by jazz trombone and bandleader legend Tommy Dorsey.

A person being called a maestro may not always be a master musician. Sometimes, it can be the person who presses the "play" button on the stereo. Though it did begin when party music came from a group of musicians led by an actual maestro, its use has carried over to events that have recorded music that is played on cue by a DJ. It is most common at events with high-class or retro-style decorum, but the phrase can also be used at everyday parties, often with a degree of sarcasm.

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