The music-based mentoring process

In this final blog to accompany AYM’s new Talent to Talent film resources, we explore the process and activities of the music-based mentoring model.

Music-based mentoring begins with participants’ musical journeys:

The main narrative thread that runs through all of the projects is looking at musical journeys. We used musical journeys as a metaphor for encouraging mentors and mentees to explore their stories [and] their progressions, how they had learnt, and indeed what they wanted to go on and do.

Ben Sandbrook, Facilitator

Each project day started with the whole group together and a series of icebreakers which were designed to settle participants in the space and with each other. As each project progressed, the older musician mentors were encouraged to lead these themselves and try out new warm-ups in a safe space. Following these, day 1 began with time to discuss the challenges they’d had to date in their musical journey, where they were at that point and where they might like to see that journey going in the future. Participants then draw their musical journey as a graphic score in whatever way they feel most appropriate. Below are three examples of participant’s musical journeys.

The activities that followed allowed them to reflect on the things they and others had discussed. The participants are encouraged to turn these conversations into music, co-created in groups that can then be performed to communicate the mentoring insights that they have developed. And by doing this, all sorts of musical skills became necessary, and because the whole process is non-hierarchical, everyone has an equal say in how the music evolves.

Other activities focused on group composition and group improvisation, with questions and tasks for the participants which create the thinking that goes around being a mentor. These included working in pairs to draw a well-known piece of music for the rest of the group to guess, flash mob briefs to maintain energy and focus in the last hour of the day and writing poems or phrases for another group of musicians to interpret or turn into a song.

The breadth of activities developed over the course of Talent to Talent. To some extent, they were tailored to the participants present in each location, for example in Nottinghamshire there was a more noticeable focus on working with words and song writing, both of which were successfully introduced at a point where the group were comfortable with each other and happy to experiment and explore something new. In the Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire projects, the facilitators asked participants to spend some time thinking about and sharing information about their instrument family. Many found this a valuable exercise and noted that it was not something musicians often have the space or opportunity to do. In the Leicestershire project, there was a focus on communication and presentation which developed out of conversations with AYM Patron and Alumna Jess Gillam who joined participants on zoom to talk about her musical journey and mentoring experiences.

The final key part of the process was rehearsing and reproducing the music the participants had created.

A lot of decisions had to be made amongst the groups doing the creating about where each piece was going to go, they evolved the content, worked it up into a musical performance. And then there always became a point where the creativity stopped. And they would have to then start to rehearse and hone the music they produced in order to be able to perform it to others.

Paul Sherman, Facilitator

This collaborative and interpretive ongoing decision-making process was an entirely new rehearsal experience for some of the younger musicians, and even in the performance, there were moments when the music went in an entirely different direction because they were reacting in the moment and creating living music. These short performances for family and friends at the end of each project – Covid permitting – showcased not only the music created by the participants, but also communicated some of the learning that had taken place. They illustrated the breadth of musical experiences, instruments and genres represented by the participants.

Regular reflection sessions ended each day and a longer opportunity to reflect followed the performance at the end of each project. Participants were asked to consider what they enjoyed most, what they’d remember and what challenged them. These sessions were led by facilitators Ben and Paul in the round, with everyone invited to contribute. As well as encouraging participants to take the time to reflect on their experience, it also ensured the continual evolution of Talent to Talent.

“One of the important things for us to add is the activities, the programmes, the structure of these projects, is something that evolved. And it was very important for us to ask people beforehand, during and afterwards, what had worked what had worked less well what they would like to have done differently.” Ben Sandbrook, Facilitator

Talent to Talent films

 To find out more about the music-based mentoring process, watch the fifth and final film in our Talent to Talent series of films. 

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