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The Value of Mentoring by Meldra Guza (Quench Arts’ Wavelength Project Lead Artist)

Why it is important to support emerging music leaders

The very first thing that comes to mind when I think about the theme of this blog is the importance of leading by example. When working with emerging music leaders the best thing we can do is to guide and demonstrate why certain techniques work and how to introduce them in one's work scheme and achieve good results when working with young people; how to build trust and understanding; how to create and keep at good ethics within a youth group and strengthen the social and emotional wellbeing of the group and each individual.


Leading by example

Being a good leader doesn't always mean knowing all the right answers. I feel it is being able to show a direction, inspire further study of a certain subject matter, strengthen one's confidence and provide further opportunities to grow. A good mentor will want to see his/her mentees continue their own journey and find their own way- where initially there might be a dependency and need for advice and direction, in time, and with strategic work, the need for this support should reduce.

Looking back at my own development I find that the best mentors gave me some timeless and valuable lessons that I am still carrying with me, I still feel an immense respect and gratitude to those people that helped me to form my own leadership style but I also feel independent and able to create my own path. It is only when someone tells us that we have played a key part in their development (musical, personal and professional) that we truly realise that we have made a difference, but with that also comes understanding of responsibility that we carry when we mentor the emerging music leaders.  We must pass on valuable and valid information. We must establish the importance of work ethics and reliability that is expected when working with young people. We truly need to lead by example.


Limited time for development – put the time in!

Ideally, the mentoring runs its own natural cycle during which the mentees become more self-reliant, gain new skills and are empowered to make their own decisions and consequently become self-sufficient but still willing to learn from their own peers as well as the young people.  Music and arts in general is a welcoming, inclusive world. In my eyes, the knowledge, theoretical basis as well as practical implementation methods should also be shared with great generosity. 

Additionally, emerging music leaders also have to be ready to put the extra hours into their own development. Contrary to many tutor-led environments where it is possible to stick to a certain plan, most of the time, the community music world is centred around the young person with a view that it can be empowering for the young people to decide what they might want to do in the session rather than being told what they will learn.  The sessions, although planned, very often might take on a slightly different route so I find myself often having several plans in my mind in order to provide flexibility in accommodating the wishes of the young people. The emerging music leader, just like any other music leader, has to be prepared to take on additional studying material, research music, learn more about theory, production, lyric writing, do further studies in understanding mental health, in understanding how the brain works and what are the specifics of brain development at certain times in human's life are, to name a few.  The more knowledge a music leader can take in, the more they can benefit the young person by being able to facilitate the session that will have the greatest impact and not just get through the session with a limited amount of knowledge.



The next thing that we need to give support around is finding the balance between the leadership, musicianship and one's ego. The ego often might be present because a part of being a creative person, for many, means the need to be appreciated. With that comes the ego. Whilst it is healthy in some amounts for one's personal career in music, I find that when entering a room full of young people, the ego has to stay outside. Once as session has started, it truly has to be all about the young people and their journey in music making.  So I feel we need to discuss techniques of offering more empathy, understanding and methods of offering improvement paths without critique.



Also, it is important to help resolve any mistakes, worries and fears that emerging music leaders might have. We all make mistakes. Often, emerging music leaders might worry about leading a session, so it is a good idea to suggest they lead only a small portion of the session, offer feedback as well as offer different ways of thinking and/or approaching the particular activity and build their confidence step by step until they are ready for more responsibility.


Enable them to flourish

To summarise, I'd like to say that the greatest gift we can give to anyone is our time, support and also the feeling of freedom. It is wonderful to observe emerging music leaders develop their own techniques and way of working, and then see them become more and more independent.