What is music-based mentoring?

Mentoring is the exchange of ideas, advice or guidance between two people, one of whom usually has more experience or knowledge than the other. Music-based mentoring is where music is used as the means through which mentoring between young musicians takes place. In Talent to Talent, mentoring relationships and conversations were encouraged to emerge organically as part of the creative music-making, starting with participants’ musical journeys. This kind of peer mentoring is

…where young musicians help each other to help themselves [and] is likely to come about through the conversations you have, the experiences you share, the questions you pose and the support you offer.

Ben Sandbrook, Facilitator

The main vehicle for these conversations was musical journeys. They were drawn or told as stories then explored musically and used as a metaphor for encouraging the mentors and mentees to share their experiences together.

From this starting point a lot of creative work followed before participants moved on to honing and rehearsing the finished pieces. Other activities were introduced throughout the three days and each project culminated in a short performance to family and friends, showcasing not only the music created by the participants, but also communicating some of the learning that had taken place. The performances illustrated the breadth of musical experiences, instruments and genres represented by our participants and some films of these performances can also be found on our YouTube channel here: add link

Reflection sessions ended each day and a longer opportunity to reflect followed the performance at the end of each project. As well as encouraging participants to take the time to think about their experiences, it also helped feed into the evolution of the Talent to Talent approach.

Music-based mentoring: outcomes and legacy

Talent to Talent’s aim was for participants to better understand their musical selves, their musical progression and career options; for them to develop new skills, explore experiences and aspirations and create new music with peers and inspirational professionals. For the AYM Alumni and Lead Musicians, the intention was that they would build on their existing professional experience and learn more about music leading. AYM also wanted to document how young people could lead their own musical learning within a new, high-quality progression model.

Music-based mentoring fosters not only skill development such as empathy, active listening, team working, confidence and improvising skills, but it also it enriches leadership in music education, giving music leaders the skills to support young musicians to develop their own independent learning.

As the mutual respect builds up between the participants, one of the really incredible things that develops is that everybody’s learning from everybody else. There’s no hierarchy; you can learn from anybody and that comes across very, very strongly.

Paul Sherman, Facilitator

For the youngest participants, the project was a kind of intensive musical playground and no matter how little experience they had on their instrument, the activities were relevant and accessible. The slightly more mature and/or experienced participants were able to reflect on how Talent to Talent gave them a better understanding of the wider musical world and a further realisation that there are others out there as passionate about music as they were. The Alumni and Lead Musicians really valued both working with peers for the first time in many months and also the opportunity to grow and develop in a safe space.

“I loved that there were lots of other musicians just like me. [Talent to Talent] challenged me to understand other people’s perspectives of music. I have learnt that when I’m older I might want to travel around and show all the people in the world my music.”

Reuben, Furthering Talent student

“I can now definitely see myself in a career with music in the future, or at least I hope to do so. Collaborating with other people with the same common interests makes me realise how amazing it really is.”

Shenara, Award winner

“ I felt encouraged and supported to take a more proactive stance in the work, helping me to develop my skills as a mentor in an encouraging environment. Just as we told the participants, ’there are no mistakes here’ I felt this applied to us as well! It was as much an opportunity for us to learn and grow as it was for the young people taking part.”

Oliver, Alumnus

Key elements to Talent to Talent’s success

These were:

  • The safe, non-hierarchical environment which promoted and fostered the development of the participants’ confidence, musical self, learning and acquisition of new skills through experimentation and collaboration.

  • The activities, questions and tasks which were designed to build relationships, encourage participants out of their comfort zones, initiate conversations and reflect on experiences.

  • The wide range of participants, their varied musical experiences, instruments and genres.

I think one of the really beautiful things that emerges from this work is a very genuine, horizontal, non-hierarchical interaction between musicians of very different ages and experiences of playing their instruments. It is an environment where you can have very co-designed, co-created, co-explored musical interactions of a nature that perhaps isn’t so common in other areas of musical life. 

Ben, Facilitator

One of the most telling factors for me was how well the groups had obviously bonded, both as people and musicians. It was evident that the mentor-mentee interactions had been hugely successful as there was no obvious delineation between the ‘professional’ alumni and the young students in regard to what they played or how they took part. The performances belonged to each group and everyone had an equal and valid part to play.

Rachel, Leicestershire Music

Talent to Talent films

Talent to Talent’s five film resources were created during 2021 and they are designed to be watched in sequence or as standalone films. They outline what music-based mentoring is, why we do it, how we trained our mentors and supported their development, what makes a good mentoring environment and the Talent to Talent process.

Share this post