Why is music-based mentoring important?

In the second of this series of posts to accompany AYM’s new Talent to Talent film resources, we explore why we do music-based mentoring. 

The Talent to Talent music-based mentoring model grew out of AYM’s Musical Progression Roundtable key finding that there was the need for young people to lead their own musical learning in practice and further research such as the Music Commission goal (March 2019) for young people to be ‘engaged in shaping their own learning pathways.’ 

The aims of the programme are

  • for participants to better understand their musical selves, their musical progression and their career options, 
  • to develop new skills, explore experiences and aspirations 
  • to create new music with peers and inspirational professionals. 

Talent to Talent realises these aims, firstly through outcomes – for example developing empathy, active listening, teamwork, increased confidence and improvising skills, and secondly by how it enriches music education and supports young musicians to develop their own independent learning.

It was nice to engage with people who had similar interests and goals. I developed [new skills in] improvisation, and quite a bit of teamwork. [I will always remember] the uniqueness of it. Doing things I’ve never tried before, like a reading a musical journey off some paper, and playing what I thought it would sound like.

Jack, FT Student (Sheffield project)

I loved that there were lots of other musicians just like me. [The project] challenged me to understand other people’s perspectives of music. I will always remember all the things that I Iearnt and all the fun that I had. The new skills I learnt were trills and glissandos. 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, FT Student (Leicestershire project)

For the oldest mentors – early in their professional careers – this model gives them the opportunity to enhance their music leadership and facilitation skills, as well as their skills as a mentor. 

A particular area in which my experience has been built has been collaborating with other leaders ‘on the spot’, as a lot of what I’ve done previously in similar fields is either led only by myself, or alongside chamber partners/established collaborators, with whom I already have a strong familiarity and rapport.

Sarah, Alumni (Hull project)

I have learnt numerous skills such as managing and steering open-ended discussions and creative sessions, confidently leading activities and workshops, and tailoring guidance and help to the specific needs of different children. 

Ella, Alumni (Leicestershire project)

We know that the breath of experiences the participants brought to Talent to Talent was as important aspect of the model for it’s participants. The project involved musicians at different stages of their musical journeys and from different AYM programmes – Furthering Talent students, Award winners and Alumni of the Awards programme.

One thing which has been wonderful to observe is because we have a varied age range […] is there’s always somebody just ahead in their musical journeys; on their musical paths. So they very naturally look up to the next person in that journey and they are very accepting of oh, they know what they’re talking about; I trust them; they’re where I want to be; I like the journey that they’re on; I’d like to emulate that. And this builds a bridge between the two that they then coalesce into travelling together along the journey that they’re going. And it never feels forced, it always feels like something that emerges just from the building of relationships during the time that they spent together.

Paul, film transcript

There was a very real sense throughout that reciprocal learning was taking place; not only younger musicians learning from older musicians, or folk musicians learning from classically trained musicians, but also the other way around. This is one of the strengths of this model is that it works especially well across genres – the participants valued the opportunity to work with those from another genre and learn from them. They found it refreshing to work with musicians they wouldn’t normally collaborate with and genres they knew nothing about. 

[…] it has inspired me to delve into the world of other music instead of just Irish and classical but making me aware of how to make my own arrangements and pieces without writing thorough transcripts or sheets but maybe just using pictures or symbols. 

Shenara, Award Winner (Sheffield project)

I think one of the most understated parts of mentoring is kind of learning from the mentee as well as the mentee learning from the mentor. We can learn an awful lot from the younger musicians coming up because they are experiencing music in a completely different way to the way we did you know 10 years ago when we were their age. So I think learning from the opposite way to what we expect is also super important.

James, Lead Musician mentor

Talent to Talent films

To hear more about why we advocate for the music-based mentoring model watch the second film in our Talent to Talent series of resources.

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