During the standard Festival critic session, a student plays his or her prepared piece for one critic, and receives feedback from that teacher. The student’s private teacher and a parent are also allowed into the performance site. The piece played does not need to be memorized.

Advanced students may elect to register for a masterclass session with one of the critics designated to hear those performances. The Festival Guest Critic and Recitalist is always one of the people hearing the masterclass performances, along with two Luther piano faculty members and the Luther College organist.

Along with the advanced proficiency level of the masterclass players, there are two other significant differences between the masterclass and standard sessions. Masterclass pieces must be memorized. In addition, masterclass sessions are held in larger venues, in front of audiences consisting of anyone who wants to listen. Comments given to the performer by the critic are directed to both the performer and listeners.